The Distant Crowd: Transactional Distance And New Social Media Literacies.
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Sociality is not just a cultural phenomenon but is embedded in our genes as eusocial creatures (E. O.Wilson 2012). Learning is an innately social activity, and the processes of teaching, the passing of knowledge from one generation to the next, are well-adapted to our eusociality. The size and nature of the groups we have evolved to form has, so far, been codetermined by exigencies of our situated existence as, initially, bands of hunter-gatherers, evolving into agricultural thenindustrial societies. Dunbar (1996) suggests the size of such groups is naturally limited. Though his research has been challenged on multiple fronts (Russell, Shelley, and Killworth 1987; de Ruiter,Weston, and Lyon 2011), the vast majority of close social ties for any single individual are limited to a relatively small number of other individuals, and our learning generally occurs in relatively small groups. Larger organizational forms such as cities, nations, universities, or corporations are mainly constituted as hierarchies and networks that maintain close personal contact at a manageable number for any given person. The focus of this paper is on describing how, after countless millennia of gentle evolutionary change, the Internet is challenging us to discover new forms of sociality and, with it, new forms of social literacy to help us become more effective learners and citizens.