Malcolm Gladwell’s piece in The New Yorker, "Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted," stayed with me long after I put the carefully folded pages scribbled with my musings into the read pile on my floor. The piece deserves greater attention, meditation, rumination, which I intend to do in future blogs but for today’s blog, I want to explore his take on divide and conquer. Gladwell explores the difference between strong and weak ties in organizing and it is something that should be of the upmost importance to our readers. Decisions on organization, process, and the tools reformers engage to reach their ends are critical. "The medium, after all, is the message" - Marshall McLuhan. But it could also be that the medium signals something about the thoughtfulness of organizers and the level of commitment of participants.
Strong tie/high activism, according to Gladwell, are those activisms that “challenge the status quo”, “that attack deeply rooted problems”, these activisms are “not for the faint of heart”. Gladwell’s article explores the dedication and hierarchical organization required to enact the civil rights movement. Weak tie/low activism, on the other hand, and the activisms that stem from it, “succeed not by motivating people to make a real sacrifice but by motivating them to do the things that people do when they are not motivated enough to make a real sacrifice”. Gladwell’s example is the myriad of Darfur related movements that have led to as many as 1,282,339 members and garner as low as nine cents a person and as high as thirty-five cents a person in commitment. Although “you can’t measure commitment by a ledger”, as one of the organizers for one of the aforementioned Darfur groups smartly said, I want to explore this idea of social media involvement and lazy participation. In particular, I wonder how resilient weak ties are to long standing, tried and true, battle tested, divide and conquer tactics. I am interested in knowing what readers think and will explore this topic further in my next blog.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Mrehan