Links, Schminks

It’s time for another round of links. As was the case last time, these are links that I found interesting for one reason or another, but I didn’t have enough commentary to justify a full entry.

Dean’s movement

Mitch Ratcliffe wrote an article, suggesting that “I think the opportunity now is to establish a permanent activism, one that can have the influence of the Christian Coalition and the roots of a populist movement.” I don’t know who Mitch Ratcliffe, but I like his thinking, since I suggested the very same thing a month ago. While poking around, I found another similar post. It should be noted that Dean shouldn’t necessarily be counted out of the race yet. He’s still second in delegates, and could still make waves at the convention. But I think if he can use his position to get issues on the table, he should consider it a success. And by those criteria, he’s been a huge success; part of the reason he’s lost ground is that all of the other candidates co-opted his defining issues.

Exiting Deanspace

As long as we’re on the subject of Dean, I wanted to draw attention to this great article by Clay Shirky on what went wrong with Dean’s campaign that turned the momentum against him so quickly. Or even whether there was any momentum to begin with: “…the hard thing to explain is not how the Dean campaign blew such a huge lead, but rather why we ever thought that lead actually existed. Dean’s campaign didn’t just fail, it dissolved on contact with reality.” Well worth a read for some thoughts on political organization. And there are loads of links to other interesting posts on the topic in the comments section below.


I saw this post by David Weinberger linked to over at Corante, discussing the importance of the unspoken context of groups. Context is a topic that fascinates me. It’s the basis of several forms of humor (changing the context makes things funny) and grounds most human relations. As Weinberger notes, the “knowledge management” industry was a perfect example of the futility of attempting to make the implicit context explicit (The Social Life of Information is an entire book devoted to that particular concept).

It’s also amazing how good people are at context. While talking to my sister on the phone this evening I said something like “Remember that one place we went that one time?” And she knew what I was talking about, because the previous conversation set the context for which place and which time. But I just had to stop and laugh, because what I actually said was so devoid of information content that it was ludicrous. And yet she still was able to extract the meaning. Another example is my friends’ toddler. He’s just learning to talk, so he only has a few words, but can generally make himself understood because we can guess what he wants and say “Do you mean such-and-such?” and he says “Yeah!” and we go on. Unleash a speech recognition program on him and it would get gibberish. People understand him just fine. It’s all about context. Hrm. I thought I could maybe expand this into a full post, but it looks like I’m striking out. Oh well. I’ll pick up on this thread later. If I were more artsy, I could try to extend it into postmodernism and its tenet that nothing has any meaning without context, but I’d be faking it and somebody would probably call me on it, so I won’t.

Fall of the Creative Class

I really liked reading The Rise of the Creative Class, by Richard Florida. So it was interesting to read this article, which I saw over at Corante attacking Florida’s theories based on the actual economic performance of his Creative Centers. I think Florida did a good job capturing the spirit of my generation, even if it doesn’t necessarily translate into the raw economic numbers that this article looks at. But it’s good to have the discussion. It’s boring when everybody agrees.

The Political Effects of Blogging

Saw this article over at Corante. Considering how I get basically none of my news from television at this point, I think the transition they’re describing of the internet’s influence overtaking that of traditional media is well on its way. The thing I wanted to comment on, though, was this quote describing how they might measure the effect of bloggers on political debate: “It might be possible to use textual analysis to track the passage of key phrases from their origin in blogs into use in official party or governmental position papers and debates, as well as the mass media.” This entertains me because it reminds me of Ender’s Game where Peter and Val use the nets to start influencing the political debates of the time (a storyline that continues to inspire me; heck, at some level, this blog is probably a result of my belief in the possibility of that happening):

Peter took careful note of all their most memorable phrases and then did searches from time to time to find those phrases cropping up in other places. Not all of them did, but most of them were repeated here and there, and some of them even showed up in the major debates on the prestige nets. “We’re being read,” Peter said. “The ideas are seeping out.”
“The phrases, anyway.”
“That’s just the measure. Look, we’re having some influence. Nobody quotes us by name, yet, but they’re discussing the points we raise. We’re helping set the agenda. We’re getting there.”