Social Group Identity, Authority, and Mediating Technologies, Think Tank Emerging Technologies, Meeting 17

Hi, ThinkTankers,

Shari Curtis and Molly Anderson have developed the ThinkTank prompt for this month. So I’m passing the microphone… Here’s Shari:

“In this week’s think tank, we would like to explore group identity, or how our understanding of ourselves is tied to our membership in social groups. In particular, we’d like to discuss how we understand ourselves as members of the MSU Library organization. How do our interactions influence group identify? Does it make a difference whether our interactions are face-to-face or mediated by technologies such as the intranet and social media? Given the recent changes in leadership and organizational structure, how do we as a group vest authority in our leaders?

To facilitate this conversation, a little “lite” reading:

· General overview of social identity theory via Wikipedia:,, and

· “Why Men Love War” by William Boryles, Jr. from the November 1984 Esquire: The formation of group identity amongst men in war.

· A piece by Malcolm Gladwell on the potential implications of social media for human connections and activism, “Why the Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted”: A piece arguing that face-to-face group creation has more impact than through social media.

· A piece on intranets and organizational culture: On how electronic communication within an organization is a transmission of culture.

· Leadership as a relationship within social identity and not a function of charisma. Social Identity Theory of Leadership

And some additional theoretical background if you have the time and inclination to read more about social identity theory:

· Social Identity and Self-categorization context.

· Group Identity and Social Preferences

· The Social Space and the Genesis of Groups

When you have the chance, have a look at Shari and Molly’s suggested resources and we’ll see you on Thursday at 10am in CR1.



Notes from the discussion:

Shari started discussion with group identity exercise.

  • Welsh language example exercise: “llyfrgellydd”
  • Translation: “people of the place of the book”

In this session, we focused on internal organizational identity, not patron identity. (Which could be just as interesting…)

Social Identity in the Library

  • Shared beliefs
    • Freedom of information
    • Access to information
    •  Literacy
  • Shared goals to a point
    • Competition for competing interests: Library as curator of print or Library as platform for knowledge creation
Face to face interaction versus Online interaction
  • Intranet wiki versus Quarterly All-Library meetings
  • Not a either/or binary… both/and
  • Online as supplement to face to face
  • Intranet (content management,institutional history) versus Discussion in room
Shari brought up broadside example, 17th century pamphlet
  1. Picture at top
  2. Course joke in middle
  3. Fine print, nuanced argument at bottom
Can libraries adopt this metaphor?
  1. Picture at top = Visual Learner
  2. Course joke in middle = Text-based learner, everyday patron
  3. Fine print, nuanced argument at bottom = Grad Students, Researchers, Administration
Social Identity Theories of Leadership
  • Leadership is not just about charisma; it’s a contract between leadership and follower. Leaders might be promoted because of their ability to moderate or represent the most common. Who is our ideal librarian?
  • Even an outlier type of librarian could become a leader if people believe they share the same values.
How are we currently using our intranet? Can it be redesigned to address organizational needs?
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