Good night nurse....
Canada's Canoe reports on Flu Bloggers who are smartmobbing the potential upcoming flu outbreak. This is an ad hoc community gathered rapidly and naturally from a concern looming on the horizon. There are several elements of this that interest me.
Natural ad-hoc cohesion - Most of these bloggers came to be associated with each other due to a common interest that they, themselves, started in isolation. After the start of their blogs, they were able to join together as a network. So they started as radical, isolated nodes and achieved cohesion due to the instantaneous selective searching capabilities of the internet. They could not have formed as a group without starting as inspired individuals.
Internal Discord and External Accord - Like most groups, these participants see the benefits of the entire group but also its warts. Conscientious researchers are paired with wacky conspiracy theorists due to the open structure of the internet. In the aggregate, however, these bloggers learn from each other and refine their posts to build on information learned and analyzed.
Hard Science meets Human Interest - These situations leave the door open for many possibilities. Researchers, finding a community of interested people, could tap this resource for article research, case studies and distributed computing. Imagine if you were studying a particular strain of influenza and needed to model its growth. There are many ways to model a contagion, but you only have the computing power or time to do a subset.
Politics meets an Informed Populace - The flu is more than something that sells Nyquil. It's an issue. Flu vaccine distribution, community health preparation, school system policy, worker compensation, quarantine rules, and many other factors are intrinsically linked to the flu. As situational blogging like this grows (and it likely will), the "special interests" that currently are credited with influencing public opinion will both draw from and be challenged by these communities. Lawmakers will find themselves being educated by these bloggers and find these bloggers formidable and sophisticated foes should they find themselves on the wrong side of an issue.
Take a look at a few of the flu blogs and see how you feel....