4 November 2015 at 18:09 #2296
The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, Malcolm Gladwell, Back Bay Books, 2002
WHAT do a syphilis epidemic, Seasame Street and New York crime rates have in common?
Quite a lot, according to Malcom Gladwell’s 2000 book, The Tipping Point.
All three have seen small changes make create significant shifts in their trajectories, tipping them into a whole new state of being.
Through a diverse set of anecdotes, the book explores the idea of the titular tipping point and the factors influencing the pivotal moment in each. Interwoven into the narrative is the idea that information, trends for example, spread in the same way as viruses and, by applying some of the broader concepts of epidemiology, the tipping point moments can be understood and possible even controlled.
In understanding the elements that influence how a epidemics of any sort spread, stick and succeed (whatever success looks like), the book looks to address the broader questions of why some ideas fly and others flop and what, if anything can be done to influence the “tipping” process.
TAKEN literally, a tipping point is the moment when a small change sends an object from stable equilibrium to a new and potentially chaotic state.
Gladwell describes it as the instant “when everything can change all at once”. Applying the idea to society, the book contends that the spread of ideas, products and messages mimic an epidemic in terms of contagiousness, small causes have big consequences and changes happening suddenly.
Drawing from a wide variety of research sources, including sociology, economics, virology and business and management theories.
The book posits three main factors that influence whether a tipping point moment is reached:
1. The Law of the Few
Citing the Pareto principle – the idea that 80% of the work in a given task is completed by 20% of the participants – Gladwell presents introduces three specific types of people he believes are responsible for an idea’s contagiousness; the messenger is as important as the message.
Connectors – the “social glue”
These people are the embodiment of the Stanley Milgram experiment that became the basis for the “Six Degrees of Separation” theory beloved of Kevin Bacon fans. Acting like a hub in a computer network, their connections span a number of different professional disciplines as well as social, economic or geographical areas.
Mavens – the superfans
High-level communicators with a cause and the desire, if not the need, to spread their gospel. Often enthusiastic amateurs, mavens are the sources of new trends whose opinions and input are more highly regarded than “official” experts as they lack a specific agenda.
Salesmen – the “persuaders”
If the mavens are the sources of information then the salesmen are the vector for the virus. They are the ones who transmit the idea in a manner to a broader population.
2. The Stickiness Factor
If the law of the few is concerned with the messenger, stickiness is what Gladwell sees as the answer to why find purchase in the audience’s mind. What makes the message memorable? While the secret sauce to stickiness is elusive, Gladwell suggests that the decisive factors tend to be small details and the essential simplicity of the message.
3. The Power of Context
A good man can do a bad thing given the right circumstances and vice versa is the general thrust of Gladwell’s final assertion. Context, be it historical, political, financial or otherwise can play a huge role in the overall success or failure of reaching the tipping point.
Written in a pre-social media world, the absence of a reference to the communications revolution of the last decade is glaring. While the years have reinforced some concepts, it has exposed others.
The increase in inter-connectedness has seen the likes of Facebook and Linkedin base their products on virality. However the validity of the connectors usefulness has been brought into question given a recreation of the Milgram experiment (this time using email) in 2003, which concluded that, while the six degrees of connectedness did exist, the connections did not “require highly connected ‘hubs’ to succeed” (Dodds, et al., 2003).
Meanwhile mavens have had their power both been intensified and diluted. Now in possession of a multitude of channels through which to champion their causes, the sheer sprawl of opinion has rendered everyone and expert and no-one at the same time.
Similarly, a move away from macro-trends and a greater focus on micro-trends (thanks hipsters…) has seen brands moving toward focusing on many small successes rather than the one, big, tipping point dependent, home run.
The broken windows theory Gladwell used to frame the drop in crime in New York city in the ’90s as an example of the Law of Context in action is also not one fully endorsed as an explanation. In 2001 “The Impact of Legalised Abortion on Crime” (Donohue & Levitt, 2001) linked the Row v Wade court decision that legalised abortion in some states in America to the drop in crime rather than specific police action.
An updated volume addressing the influence that social networking and the ever shortening news cycle compressing what could be seen as the necessary “context” for a tipping point would be fascinating.
Despite its broad base of reference, The Tipping Point is reportage, not research. While Gladwell presents his case in a compelling fashion and shows excellent research, there is little recognition of contrasting theories and no experiments conducted to confirm his ideas. Describing far-reaching theories with anecdotes rather than data seems superficial. It’s not dumbed-down, so much as partially digested and regurgitated in an easier to swallow format; a good story to tell down the pub.
The Tipping Point is, for all intents a sort of one-man wiki, a hotch-potch of interesting, disparate stories tied by a theoretical through-line. While the sources are real and the intent to educate genuine, it serves better as a jumping off point for research rather than a primary source of information itself.
What the book does give is an insight into the mechanics at work behind such day-to-day fixtures as viral videos – now seen as a valuable marketing tool – but the manner in which the ideas can be leveraged toward a positive effect is mostly absent.
Dodds, P. S., Muhamad, R. & Watts, D. J., 2003. An Experimental Study of Search in Global Social Networks. Science, Volume 301, pp. 827-829.
4 November 2015 at 19:50 #2300
- This topic was modified 2 years, 11 months ago by Peter Madden.
Can’t seem to edit this more than once so I guess this is the one yisser getting…4 November 2015 at 20:29 #2301
Title Facebook Bullying: An Extension of Battles in School
In this Article entitled “Facebook Bullying: An Extension of battles in School” the authors Grace Chi Dwan and Marko M. Skoric examine the phenomenon of cyber bullying through the use of Facebook. Their research focuses on how bullying is no longer restricted to face to face bullying in the school yard but also takes place online through the use of social network sites such as Facebook.
The authors contend that most of the research to date (2012) on bullying has been carried out on face to face bullying as opposed to cyber bullying. Advances in technology has allowed people to socially interact with each other through the use of social network sites such as Facebook and through the use of this technology the phenomenon of cyber bullying has come about. They maintain social network sites have enabled students who engage in face to face bullying to continue this behaviour on line. They define cyber bullying as any bullying that takes place through the use of Information and Communications Technology. Based on existing research the authors made the following hypotheses, which they hope their research would confirm.
H1. Intensity of Facebook use is positively related to the engagement of Facebook bullying.
H2. Intensity of Facebook use is positively related Facebook victimization
H3. Engagement in school bullying is positively related to engagement in Facebook bullying.
H4. School victimization is positively related to Facebook victimization.
H5. Engagement in risky Facebook use is positively related to victimization on Facebook
H6. Engagement in Facebook bullying is positively related to victimization in Facebook
(Grace Chi Dawn and Marko M. Skoric 2013)
Published in 2012 the article looks at the link between school bullying and Facebook bullying. The authors make reference to other articles to support their claims and using the results from their research was able to establish a link between school bullying and Facebook bullying. Other research carried out in this area supports their claims that school bullying is also linked to Facebook bullying (Sunday Telegraph 2012).
As part of their research the authors conducted a survey on 1,676 students between the ages 13 – 17 from two secondary schools in Singapore. From this research they were able to establish that 25% of the students had experienced cyber bullying and 31% had reported face to face bullying in school as well as being cyber bullied. With this information and other supporting research they were able to establish that the prevalence of bullying in the Singapore schools was similar to that in other countries.
From the results of their research the authors were able to conclude that the amount of time you spend on Facebook does not increase the likelihood of the user engaging in cyber bullying. This result was not surprising considering the authors mentioned that this type of behaviour normally comes about from lack of adult supervision, which can lead to this type of behaviour. So it cannot be contributed to the amount of time a student spends on Facebook. The results from their research supported their second hypothesis which was that the amount of time you spend on Facebook increases the likelihood of the student engaging in Facebook victimization. They described victimization on Facebook as being threatened, excluded from groups and having personal details revealed on the social network site. The difference between victimization and cyber bullying is very thin, as it could be considered that victimization is one of the traits of bullying so this result would seem questionable compared to the previous result. Their third hypothesis mentions that Facebook bullying is an extension of school bullying. With the extensive amount of research already conducted into cyber bullying, to support this claim one can only consider their positive result here as a foregone conclusion. The fourth hypothesis outlines that being victimised in school is positively related to being victimised on Facebook. This result is another example of where students have taken advantage of technology to continue this bad behaviour to a wider audience. The author’s fifth hypothesis regarding risky behaviour being positively related to victimization on Facebook was supported by the results from their research. The sixth and final hypothesis was supported by their research which stated Facebook bullying is positively related to victimization on Facebook. Victimization shares some of the same traits as bullying t so it’s not surprising to find that both of them have a positive link.
Having looked at all the hypotheses the author’s based their research on. The above information provides very little new information considering the extensive research already conducted into cyber bullying. Victimization shares some of the same behaviours as bullying so why the author’s separated the two is unclear. The author’s looked at bullying through the medium of Facebook, which highlighted the fact it was a popular social network site for students to engage in this negative behaviour. Maybe this was intentional to encourage Facebook to tighten their controls on what people put up on Facebook. This phenomenon has already resulted in deaths and mental trauma to vulnerable individuals. The effects of cyber bullying is still a global problem which needs to be tackled and every effort should be made by parents, teachers and social network sites to eliminate this on-going problem.
G.C.E Kwan, MM Skoric/ Computers in Human Behaviour, 18 (16-25)
Sunday Telegraph 2012:
5 November 2015 at 07:42 #2305
- This reply was modified 2 years, 11 months ago by Diarmuid Kiernan.
Donohue, J. J. I. & Levitt, S. D., 2001. THE IMPACT OF LEGALIZED ABORTION ON CRIME. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 116(2), pp. 379-419.
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