VERONA - Economist and historian Albert Hirschman has written "Exit, Voice, and Loyalty". He writes that when people are unhappy they can chose between "exit" and "voice". In a marketplace unhappy people usually chose "exit": they don't like something, they can buy something else. In a social relation unhappy people usually chose "voice": they keep the relationship but they speak out their need for something different. It would be horrible if people used the exit strategy with relationships.
The Internet is a marketplace. You can use a site and when you don't like it anymore you can exit and use another site. But the Internet is also a social network. You can talk with a fellow blogger and if you don't agree you can speak out your opinion.
The result? Pessimists would say that the result is the worst of both worlds.
But the real effect is very different. And it comes from a word that Hirschman didn't use in his book: identity.
The kind of conversation that comes out on the Web is very much based on what we want to show of our identity. We can chose an identity and stick to it, living a "voice" kind of experience. Or we can chose to change identity, living "exit" strategies all the time. But we always have to think about identity. And that becomes the peculiar strenght of this special social economic network. This can change both society and economy.
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