I wonder sometimes if all this digital media and virtual space we share is really something other than what it seems. We perceive a rich tapestry of choice and self-expression, a veritable cornucopia of tittilation, education and ideological assertion. It may actually be much simpler at base, that we are all following simple rules in the way that flocking birds or schooling fish do. The functional complexity of the digital environment, albeit a product of massively internetworked communications systems and their interdependent interaction with human choices and actions, is merely the stage upon which the crowd dances.
There is no central controlling principle at work, merely the emergent and patterned complex collective activity of so many individual entities who are all merely following the herd to nowhere in particular. It is beautiful and it is transient in the same way a flock of starlings may simultaneously resemble wisps of billowing, curlicued smoke or reflect a visualised mathematical model of complex dynamical systems in flux.
Simple rules can make for complex emergent patterns among populations of interacting, interdependent individuals and in such a context entrained entities may mistake themselves and their behaviour as unique and special. Even in the ways we are different, we are all essentially the same – we are all swimming in the same internetworked oceans of choice, breathing the same recombinatory logical vocabularies.