One of the exciting topics to discuss in Virtual Ethnography is Online Social Engineering to understand Digital Culture in cyberspace.
What is Online Social Engineering?
Every social science researcher certainly understands how social engineering is. They can create a concept that can be used to change the way people think and act in their daily lives.
How changes occur in people’s thinking systems, meaning processes, and the meanings of symbols, which are part of the reproduction of digital culture. We move the idea of Social Engineering in real life to the virtual world. Thus, Online Social Engineering is a collection of concepts and strategies used to change the way digital society understands online social facts and culture.
Today, digital culture and digital social facts have dominated the way humans determine attitudes and behave in their lives in cyberspace. From the era of pagers to Yahoo Messenger, social media apps have taken people by surprise and joy that they can be so close to someone, even if they are far away. E-mail has made it easier for people to send and receive messages quickly, replacing letters, faxes, and telegrams.
Social media such as FB, Tik Tok, and Youtube have changed the way people think about the meaning of their presence in cyberspace, proving that technology created by humans has changed humans themselves. People now prefer to write blogs rather than wait a long time only to be read by other people through the format of a book. All these conveniences have become routine and accepted by society.
However, when we study how digital culture and social facts are, an understanding of social engineering becomes essential, in which there are several main concepts.
Main Concepts and Ideas
To begin with, understanding Online Social Engineering, it is necessary to understand the main concepts that drive digital culture and online social facts.
Concepts result from a scientist’s reflection on the results of his research, which can explain various facts, which are eventually known as theories. So, the primary tool for doing Social Engineering Online is the set of theories found from research from the digital community. The community that is the object of study in the virtual world is different from the community in the real world.
Forming a digital community is triggered and spurred by various social media platforms. The place where they live is no longer a house, apartment, or homestay but the headquarters of the digital community, which offers them to build various businesses for their daily life.
A sociologist needs a community in an urban area to conduct research, whether testing a theory or finding a new theory. An anthropologist would go to a village in the interior to conduct ethnographic research on the past. After that, they wrote the research results to be used as reference material. An anthropologist will spend months to years obtaining data for his research.
On the contrary, when he conducts virtual ethnography from his study, both in the office and at home. The community has moved to the virtual world. Then an anthropologist does not need to leave again with all their research equipment and then far from where they live, to feel what is felt by the community he is researching.
Then, the concept he found was used as a tool to understand society and carry out the process of social engineering.
School of Thought
A School of Thought is a collection of scientists in one group and a particular way of thinking. In research on digital culture and online social facts, there is not yet one well-established School of Thought. It’s just that here a group of online businessmen will be the determining factor in the formation of the School of Thought from the virtual world.
Over the last twenty years, the business empires of Google, Facebook, Tik Tok, Ali Baba, and Amazon are examples that have opened up one dimension of people’s digital ways of thinking. If in the past, the School of Thought started with scholars in campus spaces, seminars, research centers, journal articles, books, and government policies, now the production of the School of Thought will begin when we enter an online business empire from a giant company in cyberspace.
In addition to digital industry business people, influencers are one of the small groups that will make the School of Thought concept appear in cyberspace. It does not matter what their level of education is. It does not matter about the academic quality of their work. Please do not care about the status of their scientific way of thinking.
However, it is the influencers who will influence netizens in cyberspace. So far, there has been no particular study that addresses the role of this influencer as a thinker, just like a senior academic who has done much academic work. It is just that the work of influencers is where they spread it on social media platforms, then change people’s views after they post their various actions on their social accounts.
However, what is interesting is when academics become new influencers who can synergize their academic findings with the opportunity to publish in cyberspace, especially on social media. The appearance of eminent scholars on social media who enlighten netizens will undoubtedly strengthen that the study of the School of Thought seems interesting for further research.
Social mobility is an integral part of social engineering. A concept will not be helpful if it cannot produce high social mobility. So social engineering requires community groups as the main actors of social mobility to carry out the desired concept of social engineering.
Therefore, in Online Social Engineering, social mobility is not so difficult to drive. Famous influencers will have followers that number in the millions. He can move his followers to follow whatever campaigns the influencer wants. Therefore, working as an influencer is closely related to the work of the online business industry comprehensively because they can change someone’s decision, through their behavior and actions in cyberspace, especially on social media.
Of course, this is a bit exaggerated, but considering the number of supporters and the loyalty of their fans to their idols, social mobility, apart from advertising models, also requires non-state actors to carry out a mission and vision of a concept. In other words, influencers are new non-state actors who will be able to mobilize digital society.
The issue of Agenda Setting is an absolute thing in Social Engineering. Of course, every intention to change society has an ultimate goal, namely for the satisfaction of those who want the benefits of the change. The study of agenda-setting is indeed widely studied in the study of strategic intelligence and intelligence analysis.
However, in cyberspace, Agenda Setting is no longer carried out by the government or superpower but by the vision and mission of online business developers. What do they want from netizens? What are their targets for you? What are the activities that you have to do according to their wishes? How do you get information and data for your daily needs? How do you decide to take their services as part of your online business? It all started with their dreams were of becoming Kings and Queens in cyberspace. They have an active “force” to change the way you think. So, Setting the Agenda in Online Social Engineering is not a complex matter, but it is straightforward, especially if it is done with the help of artificial intelligence.
From the description in this essay, I would like to emphasize that the Online Social Engineering process is a new trend in understanding digital society in cyberspace. Therefore, although derived from social sciences and humanities, the four concepts above can at least be applied to understand how to change the perspective of digital society so that they do what you want. Of course, this study still needs to look at how online awareness reproduces in netizens. What do you think about the concept of Online Social Engineering?