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Enacting Common Behavior

everybody comment!

In this story we want to challenge everyone to change their behavior. Or perhaps, challenge everyone to adopt, and sustain a new behavior. If everyone does it, it'll become the norm, and that could help commonfare. This discussion stems from reading another article, which in the end we decided was too dense for the commons, but you can have a read if you're interested in social norms, persuasion, and sustainability.

Leïla Elgaaied-Gambier, Elisa Monnot, Fanny Reniou. Using descriptive norm appeals effectively to promote green behavior. Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, 2018, 82.

Although commonfare isn't specifically about green behavior, this reading is interesting in terms of its outlook on persuasion: the commonfare metrics dashboard shows (still) less than 500 users, or so-called commoners. Since we last posted three weeks ago, I count 16 new stories. There's like 1000 page views on the site every couple of weeks. have a look here
If commonfare is to succeed, it needs more activity than that, we will need change our behavior, encourage people to behave differently, adopt new behaviors. We need to create a new norm, share a new behavior.

First of all, Commonfare needs more commoners. Perhaps many people visit the site and read a story, some might even stay longer than a minute or two, but if they don't actually sign up, then commonfare isn't growing. It isn't capitalism, but here as well, growth equals progress. Who wants to join a small community thats not growing? Also, a lot of people have profile-fatigue, that is, we're wary of signing up to yet another account, another password to remember, another way our data can be tracked. But commonfare needs to change the 'lurking' behavior and persuade people to sign up. But people need a reason to sign up, some motivation. Something the article elaborates, social norms are like, when people see other people behaving a certain way, they eventually accept that as normal. Right now, the norm isn't to join commonfare.

Once people have signed up, we must convince them first to comment. Not to write a story, or make a group currency, or buy/sell someting on commonplace, simply to comment. Commenting is Key. Honestly, it's disheartening to put energy into writing a story, and there are like, two comments, or none. Since commoners can't see how many story reads have happened, or how long people on average spent reading their story page, we have no way of knowing the impact of our contribution. Comments can change that. Commenting turns a story into a conversation, and conversations start to build relationships. Community is built on relationships. Commenting will  bring up the disagreements and banter that create an ambience more people want to come and share in. New people will want to comment, and they'll join, become commoners.

How to get people to comment? By commenting ourselves, and demonstrating the practice, create a new commonfare social norm. Don't be shy, just comment.

Next, of course, commonfare needs to persuade people to share, and write stories. Storytelling takes time, engagement, motivation, and that lively comment section is certainly one reason we like to post online, no? When someone shares their story, the comment culture will provide feedback, and make the author want to write more! We'll feel like our voice is being heard and appreciated. The next new norm, storytelling, and sharing our voices on commonfare! 

How to get people to write stories? Well, by demonstrating the practice. If even half of the registered commoners would write a story once a month, imagine how much stuff we would all have to comment on. And then visitors would come, and observe this behavior, the new norm. Over time, they will adopt this norm too. 

Of course, there are other behaviors commonfare wants to promote, like trading goods and services on commonplace, and starting groups, and group currencies. But actual commoners have no idea if anything is ever bought or sold or traded on commonplace, we don't have real stories of how commoners can use a group coin, no observable practice that could serve as a template. Well, there is macao and santarchangelo festival, but how many of us can identify through our own venue and festival? We have a group, and there's nothing on commonfare that gives us any inspiration, how a group currency is any more value to us than the commoncoin. and how is that value anyway, if using it isn't the norm?

Tutorials are a good start, explaining potential behaviors. But these strange new practices wont likely become commonfare norms without a strong persuasive messaging, and influencers to encourage folks, and that brings us to the article...again,

Leïla Elgaaied-Gambier, Elisa Monnot, Fanny Reniou. Using descriptive norm appeals effectively to promote green behavior. Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, 2018, 82. 

This article begins with an solid introduction to the various aspects of social influence theory, described as the study of “change in an individual’s thoughts, feelings, attitudes, or behaviors that results from interaction with another individual or a group” (p. 7). This is where we make the connection to commonfare: we want to change people's behavior. We want the current commoners to participate more, and we want new commoners to join, to sign up, comment, share, and over time explore the possibilities of commonfare, and then, infect their own social circles with enthusiasm, to bring in more commoners and grow the community. 

Of course, we could wait and let this happen organically "if we build it, they will come." But after three years of the project, less than 500 have come. so that's not working out, is it? 

Back in the article, it gets dense quickly, but the basics of their research is the point that social norms influence consumer behavior, and green or sustainable behavior in particular. They describe injunctive and descriptive norms. Injunctive, or perceived norms, what we think of as wrong and right. We follow injunctive norms, because  we want others to approve of our behavior. Descriptive norms are what we observe other people are doing, what is typical, and what then we think of as normal. 

The authors state that injunctive norms exert a stronger impact on attitudes while descriptive norms are a stronger predictor of behavior. There is, of course, more to it than that, and the authors allude to the “attitude–behavior gap” (see the article for references). This gap is likely where commonfare needs to do some work, because most everyone coming here to visit is likely drawn by the alternative ideals and rhetoric of activist change that is present in nearly every commoner's voice. But not everyone who comes, then follows through with the behavior of participation.

The article is focussing on how to persuade people to adopt more green practices in purchasing, but its not difficult to extend that to commonfare behaviors. They discuss relevance and advertising credibility, and suggest that people react negatively to messages that are in any way misleading. They discuss using the voices of influencers, people who consumers idolize and want to emulate, and they discuss using the voices of common people, whom other common people can relate to.

And they relate these communication strategies largely to descriptive norms. Consumers change their behaviors by imitating the behavior of others, participating in what they perceive as the norm. 

Will commoners adopt the behaviors, if we demonstrate? If enough people do it, will it become a new descriptive norm? 

Let's see.

Please comment. =)

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