Sunday, June 26, 2011

Enjoy being part of it all?

From this morning's New York Times Book Review, something that could explain why I'm trying not to keep up with things quite so much.

Consider the view that those well-­connected people the marketing industry labels “influencers” have an outsize effect on other people’s behavior. It’s only natural to assume that certain individuals have a disproportionate impact because of their particular characteristics — charisma, intelligence, popularity. But when Watts used computer simulations to model how new behaviors might spread through social networks, he found that the most highly connected individuals were not the whole story. The spread of an idea or taste depended not only on such individuals, but also on “a critical mass of easily influenced people who influence other easy-to-­influence people. When this critical mass existed, even an average individual was capable of triggering a large cascade.”


David Chute said...

You've said things like this before and I've said things like this before: People who reflexively resist fashion are enslaved by it every bit as much as people who reflexively go along with it. The key is not to care one way or the other; to not feel embarrassed to admit you like something that large numbers of other people also happen to like.

Dug around for a Famous Person quotation, but didn't find the perfect one. There is this, which comes close:

"Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it - even if I have said it - unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense." ~Buddha

Tulkinghorn said...

I completely agree.

But there are many for whom knowing the spirit of the times is itself good -- "I keep up with pop music and am listening to a lot of Gaga" or whatever -- which seems empty and wrong.

David Chute said...

Not sure. If one was writing about pop culture, or worked in the business, or was simply interested in what one's fellow human beings are up to? Not sheeplike on the face of it, IOW.

I tend not to care at allabout what "other people" are interested in, but do take an interest in what friends and family members say is "good." Is that really superior, or am I only being swayed by the views of a smaller crowd?

Tulkinghorn said...

Taking an interest in what your friends like is hardly sheep-like. Neither is taking a meta-interest in something for professional or sociological reasons. (But the number of enthusiasms you'd end up following -- everything from NASCAR to American Idol to football to James Patterson -- wouldn't leave a lot of time for your own enthusiasms.)

But if anyone expects me to have an opinion about Twilight -- meta or not -- they'll be disappointed. More importantly, if anyone tries to argue that I'm a somehow a slave to Twilight or a snob or uninterested in the outside world, they'll get an argument as well. I'm just not that into it.

David Chute said...

There are things I like way more than Twilight, but I watched the first film with Nora and of the two of us, I liked it a bit more -- as a variation on genre stuff I've been watching all my life, and quite well done for what it is. (The second installment was a snooze; narratively almost static.) As she is a fan of neither vampire stories or romance novels, it left the offspring cold.

Tulkinghorn said...

Has anyone ever gone to see something because it's "quite well done for what it is"? Saying that seems overly self-protective -- armor against expressing an opinion that might offend, or lead someone to think you have no appreciation for craft.

"Didn't like it" works for me.

David Chute said...

Of course that wasn't why I decided to watch it. And obviously I haven't become a fan. But I can also see that the people who like it, given differences of taste, are not idiots.

You can't say you "didn't like it" because you haven't seen it. I can't because that's not what I mean.

Tulkinghorn said...

Sorry. I was too terse and probably confusing and confused.

I have always been baffled at the opinion "good for what it is", which seems to mean that it's not to be judged by the ordinary rules of criticism but by a different yardstick.

Which is a somewhat euphemized way of saying "This didn't meet my standards, but you might like it.."

An opinion that wouldn't win you many friends at social gatherings.

(My last statement was meant to indicate that in such situations, I try simply to say "I didn't like it.", not that I don't like "Twilight", which I haven't seen.)

David Chute said...

Not a question of standards, but of preferances. "I'm not a Scotch drinker, but if you are, this one is excellent."