Why Societies Need Dissent by Cass R. Sunstein

In Why Societies Need Dissent, Cass R. Sunstein illustrates the powers and dangers of dissent through a clear and concise exposition of three basic phenomena: conformity, social cascades, and group polarization. His epistemological view of conformity shows how we tend to learn less first-hand than from what others think and believe. Social cascades occur when a meme, carried by early-adopters, reaches its tipping point. Group polarization shows how extreme views become more extreme in group deliberations.

Why Societies Need DissentAccording to Sunstein, dissent is essential, but not always good. Your average contrarian can contribute a great deal to an argument by offering a differing point of view, but this can also be counterproductive for the community. Still, communities need constructive dissent and need to find ways to reward it. “In the real word,” writes Sunstein, “people will silence themselves for many reasons. Sometimes they do not want to risk the irritation or opprobrium of their friends and allies. Sometimes they fear that they will, through their dissent, weaken the effectiveness and reputation of the group to which they belong. Sometimes they trust fellow group members to be right.” Conformity carries its own rewards. Dissent does not.

Why Societies Need Dissent is an excellent overview of a concept that doesn’t get enough serious consideration or positive attention. Plus, you’ll look bad-ass reading it on the bus.

A Hacker Manifesto by McKenzie Wark

A Hacker Manifesto is the Big Picture of not only where we are in the “information age,” but where we’re going as well. Adopting the epigrammic style of Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle, as well as updating its ideas, Ken Wark establishes so-called “knowledge workers” as an unrecognized social class: “the hacker class.” Wark also updates Marx and Engels, Deleuze and Guattari, Nietzsche, and a host of others: Continue reading “A Hacker Manifesto by McKenzie Wark”

Rhythm Science by Paul D. Miller a.k.a. DJ Spooky

If you believe that your thoughts originate inside your brain — do you also believe that television shows are made inside your television set? — Warren Ellis

We’re all connected. Our saturated selves are each a part of a collective, socially constructed mix of language games and habits without names. “All minds quote,” once quoth Ralph Waldo Emerson, but let’s forget about the mind, the brain, and the head that holds them. It’s not about nouns; it’s about verbs. It’s not about the dots, it’s about the connections between them. Networks, not nodes. The journey, not the destination. It’s a trigger, not a gun. Software is the paradigm of the now. It’s where nouns become verbs and all are subject to “the changing same.” Continue reading “Rhythm Science by Paul D. Miller a.k.a. DJ Spooky”

I Want That! by Thomas Hine

Columbus killed more Indians than Hitler did Jews, but on his birthday you get sales on shoes — The Goats

What at first might seem mundane subject matter is made illuminating and interesting by Thomas Hine’s engaging narrative, personal and historical examples, and downright deep digging. Excavating our culture of consumption from the perspectives of power, responsibility, discovery, self-expression, insecurity, attention, belonging, celebration, and convenience, Hine unearths the desires and rituals that have made us all shoppers in one sense or another. In the spirit of the quote above, I Want That! (HarperCollins) points out the fact that we “mix up reverence with consumption.” Our every holiday is tied to purchases and a subsequent sale of some sort. Continue reading “I Want That! by Thomas Hine”

1 Giant Leap Directed by Jamie Catto and Duncan Bridgeman

In order to thrive, ecologies need diversity. Functionalism has proven itself in the wild. What seems bad to us, if removed causes disturbance in the equilibrium of nature. As immune as we might feel, our cultural ecology is not excluded from the rule of diversity. Continue reading “1 Giant Leap Directed by Jamie Catto and Duncan Bridgeman”