April 29, 2005
Who else but Grant McCracken at the Intersection could have put it this well? -- free of multisyllabic po-mo chin-stroking Narrative non-narrative.
...the Chudnovsky story tells well. All of us like to hear stories. It gives pleasure to hear stories. This is almost certainly hardwired and I will say no more. We like even more to tell stories. Telling good stories gives pleasure plus some kind of personal capital. As social actors, we are now more appealing, more credible, perhaps more charismatic. And this is a capital we can spend on a variety of things, some tangible, some not, all of them more or less influential in the disposition of our “life chances.”
Most of all, the Chudnovsky story has “definitional” force. One of the pleasures that listeners take from this story is a confirmation that reads something like: “yes, this is the kind of city I live in. Yes, this is the kind of person I must be (if I live in the kind of city this city is).” Floridians might tell this story with a certain, “get a load of this for just plain nuttiness” and in this case the definitional force runs in the other direction. (“We’re not like this, thank God!”)
But for New Yorkers this story carries a deep confirmation of what the city and its occupants must therefore be.
The Anthropologist is Off and Running, with Surowiecki-and-beyond quality musings on social networks, museums, compelling story components, and more. Go there now. Here's the fourth bit, the promised synthesis soon to follow.
Chains, players, diversity, repurposed institutions, tipping points; new loci and foci of money, power, and engagement. Understanding networks -- and that means asking questions, performing thought experiments, not pontificating -- is the topic for the emergent ways of world. Or at least a big one that interests us.
Update: Analysis continues, we're expecting at least one more. So far it's got a bit of (appropriately enough) the famous New Yorker cartoon -- mathematician, blackboard, complex formula including the element: [miracle happens here]. We're hoping for better...