By Trent MacDonald

Social media is a spontaneous order. It is distinct from others because of its systemic resource—attention—and unique feedback mechanisms—social media analytics[1]. Attention consists connectivity and interactivity of social media networking (i.e., immediacy, accessibility, ‘findability’) and credibility and impression of social media signaling (i.e., personalisation, interpretation, and authenticity)[2].

Channeling F.A. Hayek’s designation of market order as ‘catallaxy,’[3][4] social media order is designated as ‘constellaxy.’ Constellaxy is a neologism combining ‘catallaxy’ and ‘constellation.’ Catallaxy is derived from Greek katalatto, with meanings: “to exchange” and “to admit into the community.” Constellation is derived from Latin constellatio, with meaning: “set with stars” (con- "with" and stellare “to shine”). Constellaxy therefore captures the character of the attention economy of social media: attention is networking (“with”) and signaling (“to shine”) in a constellation, hence constell-; and economy is coordination (“exchange”) and cooperation (“community”) in a catallaxy, hence -axy.

Paraphrasing Hayek, we define constellaxy as the order brought about by the mutual adjustment of many individual participants in a social media network. It refers to a pattern of mutually beneficial social media interactions—networking, signalling, coordination, and cooperation—not requiring that participants share the same goals. The emergent properties of social media—analytics, trending topics, clustering, filter bubbling, network scale, and hierarchy—are the outcomes of free pursuit of diverse and disparate goals of social media participants and networks.


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Trent MacDonald



Published: 14 Mar, 2015

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