A rare dolphin is found at a beach and beach goers are so intrigued and excited about this phenomenon that they lift the creature out of its natural habitat to get a closer look and pose for a photograph with it. The dolphin is passed around a massive group of beach goers so they too can share the rare experience of a selfie with a sea creature. The dolphin dies and a group of beachgoers are internationally reviled online.
The line between the online and the offline world are more than blurred, they feed each other. While the above example is brutal, but it is a timely reminder that offline we create online identities that then recreate offline identities. The technology that allows us to share our noteworthy (and not so noteworthy) experiences are effecting choices and the way choices are made. The digital also allows those choices to be judged.
Digital platforms are institutions that need research attention just as much as the traditional institutions of social science research. Digital institutions give humans the same feelings of belonging, loyalty and organistation that well critiqued social and political institutions hold. By ignoring techno-sociological institutions or more accurately analysing them within traditional sociological parameters, we risk missing opportunities to comment and hold them accountable. We risk sitting back and allowing digital platforms to simply be tools for communication rather than a set of social practices so powerful that a group of unrelated people come together to kill a dolphin.