Malcolm's Missive

October 1, 2010 1 Comment

Malcolm Gladwell has certainly whipped up something of a firestorm, at least among social media and network enthusiasts.  In a sense, his timing couldn’t be better as this very morning IISC staff gathers with some very bright and committed network building thinkers and consultants to take our ongoing conversation about networks for social change the next step, with some practical application in our collective sights.  I expect, and hope, that some of the energetic on-line conversation Gladwell has inspired in our community will continue during this in-person gathering.

In case you missed it, the author of The Tipping Point published a piece in the recent New Yorker entitled, “Small Change: Why the Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted.” In the article, Gladwell questions what he perceives as outsized claims that social media has transformed the landscape of social activism.  Among the points he makes is that social media builds “weak ties” that may tap people’s participation without getting at the kind of motivation required to take the risks necessary to make real lasting change.  He also writes that what he sees as the “leaderless” and flat nature of networks makes them less than ideal for pushing through and producing real reform.

Many in the Twittersphere and our community have pointed out the misplaced assumptions and understanding Gladwell displays of both historical social movements and the nature of networks.  See, for example,  Beth Kanter’s post summarizing the critique of the New Yorker article. And so we bring it to you.   What do you make of Malcolm’s missive or the response to it?  And what can we take from this conversation to continue to build movement for social change?

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