Diigo Bookmarks 05/20/2008 (a.m.)

by Yule Heibel on May 19, 2008

  • Informative review of Bill Bishop’s new book, The Big Sort. It’s intriguing to juxtapose this to the Knute Berger article that discusses transumerism, which I also bookmarked today. It’s almost as if two things are at work here: on the one hand, people “sorting” themselves demographically, and on the other, people circulating (and becoming a site of circulation), just like capital. The new physics of social data sets, with the transumers being a special case of relative sorting? 🙂

    Also of course fascinating in Stossel’s review/ Bishop’s book are the observations on “the big sort”‘s effect on politics, and that homogeneous communities tend to be more cantankerous because they’re so bloody convinced that they have it right, whereas heterogeneous communities are forced into conversations with people of opposing views, which in turn informs all parties and makes “solutions” less “obvious,” but also makes people more willing to compromise and/or put their shoulder to the wheel to keep things rolling in the right direction.

    I personally believe that my hometown (Victoria BC) would benefit if more people here had more awareness of all the different things — vocations, careers, lifestyles, EVERYTHING — going on, instead of thinking that everyone else surely must think just as they do. You see this again and again when the question of urban development comes up: the same tired gang with the same tired cliches runs to the forefront, claims to represent the majority (which in a sense they do, as the passive majority is just as ignorant as the vocal gang), and bemoans all change coming to the city because they believe it “hurts” what they see as the primary economic engine here (tourism). They’re totally unaware, it seems, that the high tech industry overtook tourism several years ago in terms of how much revenue it generates (something like $1.2b for tourism, and nearly $2b for high tech in Greater Victoria). This clinging to homogeneity (which is an illusion here: see the tech and the arts and the “different” communities) dominates discourse to the city’s economic detriment as well as its political detriment. We have political gridlock up the wazoo here, with people sorting themselves into camps (“defenders” of the traditional Victoria on the one side, determined to thwart all change; and what the defenders project as the “opposition,” whom they typically malign as “greedy developers” — it would be funny if it weren’t so pathetic). Meanwhile, I’m sure the Provincial leadership (mostly all from Vancouver, even if they have to do their work here, as this is the Provincial capital) laugh at us, since all we seem to do is run in circles.

    tags: big_sort, demographics, democracy, trends, bill_bishop

  • Berger is on another tear here (albeit being inconsistent, as the first comment points out), but I’m totally intrigued by his illustration of the “transumer” trend. It makes so much sense, when you think about it, even though it’s almost creepy at some level. (I’m not impressed by Berger’s rants against transumers, though; those diatribes fail to ring my bells.)

    Years ago, I recall learning that Mick Jagger never traveled with luggage because he just “acquired” whatever he needed wherever he was (and left it behind when he left). He didn’t need to trail a score of cases of possessions when he hopped from place to place. In a sense, the wealthy people that Berger describes here exemplify a kind of Jaggerism-trickle-down effect. You don’t need to be a rolling stone anymore to be “free” of possessions (and fashion mistakes). You just rent the appropriate materials for brief moments of time. You become an occasion, occasionally dipping into things, and just as quickly escaping their hold again.

    The really really important thing about capital, after all, is that it circulates. Of course people will be the site of that circulation, not just the site of accumulation.

    tags: crosscut, knute_berger, trendwatch, transumerism

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