Sunday, November 30, 2008

Economic breakdown, what I'm thinking now.

When I have time, I often watch video podcasts from the TED conference (technology, education, and design). If I taught older kids, I’d probably reference them all the time, but I teach 3rd-5th graders and most of the ideas are a too complicated. Anyway, earlier this month, the James Surowiecki TED lecture from 2005 showed up in my podcast feed, I had the chance to listen to it today on the train from Boston to NYC.

Sourawicki has famously written about the blogosphere, the changes in journalism and the wisdom of crowds. I was interested to listen today because in light of the economic crisis, I’ve been thinking about group speak (a not so good thing) vs. knowledge of networks (a “good” thing). I mean, until recently pundits have been telling us our economic system is strong and resilient, using this flawed model to predict prosperity into the future. Since reading Marx in college, and exploring sustainability over the past few years, I’ve thought that our consumption based economy is more likely to breakdown than survive.

Sourawecki speaks about this too: explaining that networks have a tendency to encourage “group speak”, and that, as a network develops a voice, it re-enforces it’s own ideas, shaping views of the individuals within it. There’s a psychological re-inforcement loop: as people participate, they get more attention if they draw attention to the ideas that the network values. Thus, networks are not simply the component of their individual parts, they are something more; propelling their valued ideas further and further along.

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