Dynamics of Collective Behavior
To better understand the dynamics of collective behavior. let's briefly examine several questions. First. how do people come to transcend, bypass, or subvertsubvert subvert subvert subvert subvert established institutional patterns and structures? Some environmental activists have found that they cannot get their point across unless they go outside established institutional patterns and organizations. For example. Lois Gibbs and other Love Canal residents initially tried to work within established means through the school administration and state health officials to .dean up the problem. However. they quickly learned that their problems were not being solved through "official" channels. As the problem appeared to grow worse, organizational responses became more defensive and obscure. Accordingly. some residents began acting outside of established norms by holding protests and strikes (Gibbs, 1982). Some situations arc more condu i.vc III collective behavior than others. When can communicate quickly and castly with one another, spontaneous behavior is more likely (Turner and Killian, 1993). When people arc gathered together in one general location (whether lining the streets or assembled in 3 massive stadium). they arc more likely to respond to a common stimulus. Second, how do people's actions compare with their attitudes? People's attitudes (as expressed in public opinion surveys, for instance) arc 110l s reflected in their political and behavior, pertaining to the environment are no exception. For example,dude the audience in a movie theater or people at pep rally for a sporting event. Ry contrast number of people who share an intcr csl ill a cific idea or issue but who are not in one another' immediate vicinity (L -tland, 1993). An example is the popularity of blogging on the Internet. A which is short for "web log. is an online journal maintained by an individual who frequently records entries that are main in a chronological order. People who self-publish blogs arc widely diverse in their interests. Some may include poetry, diary entries, or discussions of such activities as body piercing», However, others express their beliefs about social issues such as the environment, terrorism, war, and their concerns about the future. Readers often share a common interest with the blogger on the topics the person is writing about, but these individuals have never met-and probably will never meet-each other in: face-to-face encounter. To distinguish between crowds and masses, think of the difference between a riot and a rumor: People who participate in a riot must be in the same general location those who spread a rumor may he thousands
of miles apart. communicating by cellphone or the Internet. Collective behavior may also be distinguished by the dominant emotion expressed. According to the sociologist john Lofland (1993: 72), the dominant emili( 111 refers to the "publicly expressed feeling perceived by participants and observers as the prominent in an episode of collective behavior" Lofland suggests that fear, hostility, and joy arc three fundamental emotions found in collective behavior: however, grief, disgust. surprise, or shame may also predominate in some forms of collective behavior.