September 29, 2010

Strong tie, weak tie

In the early 1970s, Gil Scott-Heron came up with his classic song "The Revolution Will Not be Televised." Those were the days before culture went postmodern, back when real things mattered more than images of things. These days, people probably wouldn't bother with making a revolution unless there was some way of recording it and putting images of it up on the web.

Today, images seem to have become more important than the real things they were originally intended to represent. Things have almost gotten to the point where they're not considered real unless images and/or sound recordings are broadcast, televised or posted on the internet. And the connection between the image and the original person or thing is getting more and more slippery.

Political activism has gone postmodern as well. Lots of people seem to think that virtual activism via social networking is a viable substitute for the traditional mammalian practice of getting out there and interacting with (real) others.

In this interesting piece from the New Yorker, writer Malcolm Gladwell looks at the limits of this kind of activism. Short version: clicking on a Facebook button in support of a cause is qualitatively different from putting your body on the line. Weak connections can be very useful, but Gladwell argues that it takes strong bonds with real people to really push the proverbial envelope (whatever that means).

I love the subtitle. In a nod to Heron, it says "The revolution will not be tweeted."

WHILE WE'RE AT IT, here's a dissenting view on the same subject.

WHY AM I NOT SURPRISED? A survey on religious knowledge found that atheists and agnostics are better informed about religion than many believers.

TALKING ENVIRONMENT. Here are tips from cognitive scientist George Lakoff.



No comments: