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Jul 07

Tipping point


“The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference” (Malcolm Gladwell)

is a book I haven’t read, but which has let loose a term often used now: “tipping point.” As the Amazon review explains:

“The best way to understand the dramatic transformation of unknown books into bestsellers, or the rise of teenage smoking, or the phenomena of word of mouth or any number of the other mysterious changes that mark everyday life,” writes Malcolm Gladwell, “is to think of them as epidemics. Ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread just like viruses do.” Although anyone familiar with the theory of memetics will recognize this concept, Gladwell’s The Tipping Point has quite a few interesting twists on the subject.

For example, Paul Revere was able to galvanize the forces of resistance so effectively in part because he was what Gladwell calls a “Connector”: he knew just about everybody, particularly the revolutionary leaders in each of the towns that he rode through. But Revere “wasn’t just the man with the biggest Rolodex in colonial Boston,” he was also a “Maven” who gathered extensive information about the British. He knew what was going on and he knew exactly whom to tell. The phenomenon continues to this day–think of how often you’ve received information in an e-mail message that had been forwarded at least half a dozen times before reaching you.

The ideas of the book can also be read in outline form. The term will be used often in the days or weeks to come, as people try to make sense of what has happened, is happening, and will happen. Two points from the outline of interest:

6. Human beings invariably make the mistake of overestimating the importance of fundamental character traits and underestimating the importance of the situation and context. We are a lot more attuned to personal cues than contextual cues.

7. Character is more like a bundle of habits and tendencies and interests, loosely bound together and dependent, at certain times, on circumstances and context.

The Catholic schools have spoken, cautiously. The administration governors have spoken (and the President has spoken, too, by means of certain recent appointments), and the police, aggressively. Jove’s entries in his blog reflect the uncertainty expressed officially and unofficially by many at present, including questions as to which of the many sides are keeping cool while undergoing great stress.

Meanwhile, in the House, Teddy Locsin is heading to the conclusion that Joseph Estrada imported wiretapping equipment during his term, in contravention of the law, and that the person with the capability to use those machines was Atty. Sammy Ong. The questioning, at least, is intriguing.

1 comment

  1. citizen frank

    been trying to post this one since yesterday. spam karma thinks yours truly is a spammer.

    ah, the tipping point. from gladwell.com you may get the new yorker articles from which he based his book. try the tipping point, the coolhunt, the famous (and excellent) six degrees of lois weisberg, designs for working, and the science of sleeper. in designs for working, karen stephenson, a social networks expert, distinguishes between hubs, gatekeepers and pulsetakers.

    well, it seems at this point it’s still the game of the “generals” and us, foot-soldiers of the middle, can cool our heels for now.

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