The Social Theory of Decentering

Human resources
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Decentering is a way of understanding the world in its social and psychological aspects that holds that there is no single way to read an event, or institution, or text. Gathering varied experiences from many individuals produces greater fidelity, such that an explanation of an event based on a decentered approach will acknowledge many different interpretations from many different individuals.

Decentering and Technology

The explosion in social media in the second decade of the 21st Century has been a boom to the theory of decentering. For example, the events of the so-called Arab Spring following the popular revolution in Egypt in 2011 played out vividly on Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking sites. The multiplicity of voices and viewpoints created a wide field of data for understanding not just the facts of the events, but their underlying meaning to a cross-section of Middle Eastern people.

Other examples of decentering could be seen in popular movements in Europe and the Americas. Groups like 15-M in Spain, Occupy Wall Street in the United States and Yo soy 132 in Mexico organized similarly to the Arab Spring on social media. Activists in these groups called for greater transparency of their governments and teamed up with movements in different countries to address common problems all over the world, including the environment, health, immigration, and other important issues.

Crowdsourcing and Decentering

Crowdsourcing, the process coined in 2005, is another aspect of decentering as it relates to production. Instead of outsourcing work to a determined group of laborers, crowdsourcing relies on the talents and perspectives of an undefined group of contributors who often donate their time or expertise. Crowdsourced journalism, with its multiplicity of viewpoints, has advantages over traditional writing and reporting because of its decentered approach.

Decentering Power

One effect of social decentering is the opportunity it presents to expose aspects of power dynamics that remained previously hidden. The exposure of thousands of classified documents on WikiLeaks in 2010 had the effect of decentering official government positions on various events and personages, as the secret diplomatic cables about them were made available for all to analyze.