Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s 2015 New Year’s resolution was to read an important book every two weeks and discuss it with the Facebook community.
For the seventh selection in his book club “A Year of Books,” Zuckerberg has chosen “Rational Ritual” by UCLA economist Michael Chwe, which was published in 2001. Chwe explains the importance of what he calls “common knowledge.”
“I am more likely to support an authority or social system, either existing or insurgent, the more others support it,” Chwe writes in the book. “Public rituals, rallies, and ceremonies generate the necessary common knowledge. A public ritual is not just about the transmission of meaning from a central source to each member of an audience; it is also about letting audience members know what other audience members know.”
Chwe’s concept is readily apparent in the dynamics of social media. When a media organisation posts a link to an online article on Facebook, for example, and people begin “liking” it, others will begin to assign some level of importance to the story and some will be compelled to share it and discuss it. The idea of “common knowledge” may also lend itself to thinking about advertising strategies on social media.
Zuckerberg explains his latest pick on his personal Facebook page:
The book is about the concept of “common knowledge” and how people process the world not only based on what we personally know, but what we know other people know and our shared knowledge as well.
This is an important idea for designing social media, as we often face tradeoffs between creating personalised experiences for each individual and crafting universal experiences for everyone. I’m looking forward to exploring this further.
Zuckerberg announced recently that Facebook will be experimenting with an app store and video ads in an attempt to boost ad revenue, and he and his team will be determining ways to make these relevant to Facebook users without interfering with their individual experiences.
“A Year of Books” so far:
- “The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being In Charge Isnt What It Used to Be” by Moisés Naím
- “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined” by Steven Pinker
- “Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets” by Sudhir Venkatesh
- “On Immunity: An Inoculation” by Eula Biss
- “Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration” by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace
- “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” by Thomas S. Kuhn
- “Rational Ritual: Culture, Coordination, and Common Knowledge” by Michael Chwe