Saturday, February 26, 2011

New Reading

Hope a lot of folks get on board this time around.  If you know of any one who would be interested in being a part of this book club pass on the blog url.
Here is the new reading, suggested by Trevor.

Small Change Why the revolution will not be tweeted. by Malcolm Gladwell Read more


  1. My favorite quote from this is:

    "Why does it matter who is eating whose lunch on the Internet?"

    But I guess the troubling thing for me here is that we're discussing this article online. I thought that this article was very beautiful (except for the confusing part in the middle about how hierarchy is necessary), and it helped me to process the feeling I've had lately that 20 minutes on facebook leaves me with the emptiest, lonliest feeling I've ever known.

    But - what does that mean about us, as a group? Obviously I wouldn't characterize us as "weak-tie" oriented by any means, but these days most of our communication is casual, online check-ins. And, as people continue to spread out in search of work or whatever else, it seems like that's the case in many if not most of my relationships.

    In the end, after reading this, I feel like I'm failing to fulfill a duty, like I've failed to make a real commitment to friendship. Instead, I feel like I've sacrificed friendship / "strong-tie relationships" / real community - for my partnership, or the adventure of moving, or the illusion of a good job.

    Of course, we can always build powerful, real relationships with whoever we find around us, but I guess my question is: What do we do with the strong-ties we've already built, with the love we have for the people we miss so deeply?

    Anyway, that was my gut reaction to this, sorry it was so self-absorbed. I look forward to reading everyone else's.

  2. Trevor is keeping it real! When I finished reading this I was all ready to make relativly detatched comments about the article itself, though in the back of my mind I was trying (not hard enough) to think about its personal impact. Trevor's comment has brought me back to earth.

    I'm just going to type as I think - dangerous, but otherwise I'll just stare at the screen.

    The most useful thing about this article, for me, is the idea that something as poweful, important, and, to a certain extent "successful" as the civil rights movement is based, according to the author, on "strong-tie" relationships. I tend to agree, and I also tend to agree that facebook is not really about "strong-tie" relationships. (At least it hasn't been for me, or for anyone I know.) The origins of this online book club are that very important historical moment we all spent, physically, together, in mount pleasant. I think it would be a mistake to characterize our relationships as JUST AS "Strong-tie" as the relationships between black americans in the civil rights movement, but, for me anyway, it remains the most potent example of a time in my life when my "activism" was based on real, personal, every-day, strong-tie relationships. It's left a beautiful, and sometimes terrible mark on me. Beautiful because I know it's possible, but terrible because, well, it's over. We can never go back to that. In that sense Trevor's question: "What do we do with the strong-ties we've already built, with the love we have for the people we miss so deeply?"; seems to me to be very, very important. And I don't know the answer.

    I think I'll leave it at that for now. I had some thoughts about the article itself, but, the crux of the conversation-relationships-seems more important for now.

  3. What do we do with the strong-ties we've already built, with the love we have for the people we miss so deeply?"
    That is a question that I ask myself over and over, and one we are obviously all thinking about to some extent.
    I find the only real answer I can come up with for that question, in the sense of actually practicing and acting on those relationships, is to acknowledge how they affect our decisions whereever we are. Strong-tie relationships seem to be the only way to make real positive change, and most certainly genuine community, that will last, keep folks engaged/accountable, and satisfying. Obviously facebook/the internet alone is no way to have realtionships that are strong, but it also is not a question of is the internet bad or good? It can deffinetly be(this book club being a small example) a tool for relationships, but obviously can not be used in place of. As far as this book club goes, its true that its not the ideal way to make conversation with each other, but its good that we can still stay engaged with each other while being in our seperate places. Its not a replacement, but It's what we have got to work with at the moment.
    And Trevor, the parts about hierachy, as i told you, got me thinking about Eagle Rock and the lack of organization. The occuaption was a great thing, but as far as stopping Rio Tinto goes, it failed. I feel it failed do to a lack of organization and dedication. Many people where willing to bring food, or camp for a night, but few where willing to stake out for the long hall (which is more complicated than i make it sound with jobs and everything). The occupation was not pre-planned for the most part, and people just got on board as it was happening, usually for a short period.
    Since it was not centralized, and the group did not, as a whole, have strong tie realtionships, I would say that why it failed. So this brings up two questions for me
    1. If there are not strong pre-existing relationships, can people affectively organize for real change here and now without hierachy?
    2. ..and so, Is the only way to organize affectivelly as a group without strict hierachy, by having strong relationships with those you are organizing with?

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  7. dammit, i just spent so long writing a response and google deleted it for me. just letting ya'll know, copy and paste your work before posting.

  8. Codi, that happened to me three times. (But I did copy mine.) Something is amiss with the comments section.

  9. Chris, did you preview post? that was all that didnt work for me. publish works fine. sorry to disztract the conversation! i plan on retyping my response as soon as my frustration goes away.

  10. Chris pt. 2:
    "The first thing that struck me as I was reading Gladwell’s article was the argument that “strong-ties” to a group/organization/revolution was the principle factor in getting and keeping enlisters. Where MPFS was concerned, it’s true that friendships are what brought many of us in, but those relationships certainly didn’t prevent most of us from wishing each other well, blowing some kisses, and leaving anyway. Of course, he doesn’t argue that strong ties guarantee a 100% retention rate, but he certainly suggests that the phenomenon will ensure better than near 100% loss we experienced. So, his thesis is incomplete. The strong-tie argument really cannot apply as broadly as he implies: Simply being friends with a person is not going to keep anyone from moving away when economic or social pressures make it imperative. If Gladwell were correct, then fewer MPFSers would have dismissed Mount Pleasant in favor of greener pastures (be it love, job opportunities, or the desire for something different/better). On the face of the matter, yes, one is not going to commit one’s time and energy or put oneself in the path of danger for a cause to which he or she has weak ties. Strong ties (the phrase) do seem to be a necessary, but clearly not sufficient, condition. Gladwell, however, argues that “strong-ties” (which is jargon specific to his theory) are both necessary and sufficient. But how can that be true? Our commitment to causes is far too complex to be summarized as Gladwell does in this article.

    I’m not a social media expert, but my intuition tells me Gladwell isn’t either. I can accept that sites like Facebook routinely endorse “weak-tie” relationships (although FB never filled me with the same despair that seems to torment Trevor & Angelo), but Gladwell’s claim that “weak ties seldom lead to high-risk activism” misses the point. Social media sites create awareness—they may not ask much of us in terms of participation, but as the news both on radio and television did in the 50s and 60s, they spread word (even faster today than ever before). For some reason, which I imagine has to do with bolstering his own thesis, Gladwell barely makes mention of this important function social media serves. He actually laments the fact that social media gives us greater access to information, ignoring how that is a revolutionary advancement all its own! Do we criticize NPR for not asking its listeners to join the protests in Wisconsin for example, or for not helping us to “perservere in the face of danger” (as thought that is the function we expect news outlets to serve)? If anything, the media is chastised for being too ideologically motivated, for propagandizing. Yet, “social media”—which is a broad, nebulous concept, yet one that Gladwell feels comfortable using pretty much exclusively to refer to Facebook and Twitter—is criticized here for being by its very nature incapable of making activism of any kind a lived reality. That’s a wee bit hypocritical, not to mention opportune, of him."

  11. Chris pt.3:
    "But what is Facebook anyway? Is it Mark Zuckerberg? The logo? The movie The Social Network? Of course not—it’s the people who use the site. When Gladwell finds fault with Facebook, he is actually finding fault with its users, though he stops short of saying that much. Facebook is how it’s used, and to my mind, it’s used more to spread word—just as news outlets do—than to organize activism. Recently, there has been a lot of discussion about whether or not there was a social-media-fueled revolution in Iran, which, I imagine, is why Gladwell wrote this article. My concern, to echo Bertold Brecht, is that we feel as though we’ve done something meaningful when we join “causes” on Facebook or when we tweet about some injustice somewhere in the world. For the most part, we’re not doing something meaningful or transformative by simply using social media. There is so much more that must be done out on the streets, within our communities and ourselves, and in person. Facebook is not enough, but I don’t think it pretends to be the only tool necessary (despite whatever its CEO, Board of Directors, PR team, or some columnists might say). To that end, I’d really like to see some analysis done of how much organizing takes place over Facebook that is eventually realized in the real world. Gladwell’s theory really does hinge on there being a substantive amount of organizing that collapses because it was done principally through social media. Without those statistics, his soft-peddled indictment of Facebook is without merit. How on earth can he know that social media are “the not the natural enemy of the status quo”? Sounds like vacuous bloviating to me (dressed up in fancy language).

    When I was talking to Angelo about this article, something he repeated a few times was that no one is saying that Facebook is “bad.” Well, I disagree. Plenty of people are saying Facebook is bad, except without using that term specifically. It’s “dumb” or a “waste of time”; it leaves us feeling “empty” or “alone.” And, Gladwell’s entire article is about the failure of social media. None of this is a positive characterization. But there is something positive to be said about social media, and I’ll let pattrice jones say it:

    “[I]t seems to me that recent critiques of the emptiness of Twitter feeds may be misplaced. Maybe all of our twittering, texting, and (yes) blogging are just modern means of satisfying our deep need to know where our people are. Maybe Twitter “tweets” are vacuous because all we really need to say to do that is, ‘I’m over here!’”

    Unless you have a shiny patch of ice where your heart used to be, you’ll agree that her image of Twitter is quite beautiful. We mustn’t overstate the roll social media plays, true, but let’s not undersell its role in our haste to find what value it can have in our lives. Gladwell’s salvo against social media is just claptrap with the veneer of risqué scholarship. Vive Facebook!"

  12. I really like this article, it also made me miss you all terrifically. Trevor (or Chris?) wondered about if we indeed had strong ties similar to that of the folks during the civil rights movement that perhaps MPFS may have survived. I don't think the hibernation (or death) or MPFS is reflective of our personal ties, and I don't think that is what the author was saying. We were generally not engaged in high risk activism, which is where he was suggesting that was needed. And we were certainly not just sharing information; we were somewhere in between, but I think that it could have led to higher risk activism (and still could!). We were able to say goodbye so easily because there was no "fire" that needed to be put out right in front of us as a group. You feel me? So, we were able to be distracted by our own personal fires (loin or otherwise). I don't think this shit is over, and I think that it wouldn't take much for any of us to call each other into action again. Our ties remain strong, even if we mostly just tweet at each other. I think this book club is a great avenue for that!

    I don't know about yous, but I really enjoy reading your comments imagining each of you saying it - what your gesticulations would look like, etc. I love you guys.