"How often do we hear that people just don't care? How many times have you been told that real, substantial change isn't possible because most people are too selfish, too stupid or too lazy to try to make a difference in their community? I propose to you today that apathy as we think we know it doesn't actually exist, but rather, that people do care, but that we live in a world that actively discourages engagement by constantly putting obstacles and barriers in our way.
And I'll give you some examples of what I mean. Let's start with city hall. You ever see one of these before? This is a newspaper ad. It's a notice of a zoning application change for a new office building so the neighborhood knows what's happening. As you can see, it's impossible to read. You need to get halfway down to even find out which address they're talking about, and then farther down, in tiny 10-point font to find out how to actually get involved. Imagine if the private sector advertised in the same way -- if Nike wanted to sell a pair of shoes and put an ad in the paper like that. (Applause) Now that would never happen. You'll never see an ad like that, because Nike actually wants you to buy their shoes. Whereas the city of Toronto clearly doesn't want you involved with the planning process, otherwise their ads would look something like this -- with all the information basically laid out clearly. As long as the city's putting out notices like this to try to get people engaged, then, of course, people aren't going to be engaged. But that's not apathy; that's intentional exclusion.
Public space. (Applause) The manner in which we mistreat our public spaces is a huge obstacle towards any type of progressive political change. Because we've essentially put a price tag on freedom of expression. Whoever has the most money gets the loudest voice, dominating the visual and mental environment. The problem with this model is that there are some amazing messages that need to be said that aren't profitable to say. So you're never going to see them on a billboard.
The media plays an important role in developing our relationship with political change, mainly by ignoring politics and focusing on celebrities and scandals. But even when they do talk about important political issues, they do it in a way that I feel discourages engagement. And I'll give you an example: the Now magazine from last week -- progressive, downtown weekly in Toronto. This is the cover story. It's an article about a theater performance, and it starts with basic information about where it is, in case you actually want to go and see it after you've read the article -- where, the time, the website. Same with this -- it's a movie review, an art review, a book review -- where the reading is in case you want to go. A restaurant -- you might not want to just read about it, maybe you want to go to the restaurant. So they tell you where it is, what the prices are, the address, the phone number, etc.
Then you get to their political articles. Here's a great article about an important election race that's happening. It talks about the candidates -- written very well -- but no information, no follow-up, no websites for the campaigns, no information about when the debates are, where the campaign offices are. Here's another good article about a new campaign opposing privatization of transit without any contact information for the campaign. The message seems to be that the readers are most likely to want to eat, maybe read a book, maybe see a movie, but not be engaged in their community. And you might think this is a small thing, but I think it's important because it sets a tone and it reinforces the dangerous idea that politics is a spectator sport.
Heroes: How do we view leadership? Look at these 10 movies. What do they have in common? Anyone? They all have heroes who were chosen. Someone came up to them and said, "You're the chosen one. There's a prophesy. You have to save the world." And then someone goes off and saves the world because they've been told to, with a few people tagging along. This helps me understand why a lot of people have trouble seeing themselves as leaders. Because it sends all the wrong messages about what leadership is about. A heroic effort is a collective effort, number one. Number two, it's imperfect; it's not very glamorous; and it doesn't suddenly start and suddenly end. It's an ongoing process your whole life. But most importantly, it's voluntary. It's voluntary. As long as we're teaching our kids that heroism starts when someone scratches a mark on your forehead, or someone tells you that you're part of a prophecy, they're missing the most important characteristic of leadership, which is that it comes from within. It's about following your own dreams -- uninvited, uninvited -- and then working with others to make those dreams come true.
Political parties: oh boy. Political parties could and should be one of the basic entry points for people to get engaged in politics. Instead, they've become, sadly, uninspiring and uncreative organizations that rely so heavily on market research and polling and focus groups that they end up all saying the same thing, pretty much regurgitating back to us what we already want to hear at the expense of putting forward bold and creative ideas. And people can smell that, and it feeds cynicism. (Applause)
Charitable status: Groups who have charitable status in Canada aren't allowed to do advocacy. This is a huge problem and a huge obstacle to change, because it means that some of the most passionate and informed voices are completely silenced, especially during election time. Which leads us to the last one, which is our elections.
As you may have noticed, our elections in Canada are a complete joke. We use out-of-date systems that are unfair and create random results. Canada's currently led by a party that most Canadians didn't actually want. How can we honestly and genuinely encourage more people to vote when votes don't count in Canada? You add all this up together and of course people are apathetic. It's like trying to run into a brick wall.
Now I'm not trying to be negative by throwing all these obstacles out and explaining what's in our way. Quite the opposite: I actually think people are amazing and smart and that they do care. But that, as I said, we live in this environment where all these obstacles are being put in our way. As long as we believe that people, our own neighbors, are selfish, stupid or lazy, then there's no hope. But we can change all those things I mentioned. We can open up city hall. We can reform our electoral systems. We can democratize our public spaces.
My main message is, if we can redefine apathy, not as some kind of internal syndrome, but as a complex web of cultural barriers that reinforces disengagement, and if we can clearly define, we can clearly identify, what those obstacles are, and then if we can work together collectively to dismantle those obstacles, then anything is possible.
Thank you. (Applause)"
Fig.1 TEDxToronto 2010, filmed October 2011; posted April 2011
"On the way to postmodern, the struggle to reform modern capitalism's dark side, fragmented into a thousand strands. An era approach is rejected - dating the arrival of postmodernism is impossible as is the construction of a linear episodic narrative, moving from the premodern to the modern and then to postmodern. Instead postmodern methods, theories, and worldviews proliferate, as do modern and premodern ones. There are numerous postmodern approaches ranging from naive postmodernism (McPostmodernism) that hails the arrival of postindustrial and complex/adaptive organizations, Baudrillard's and Lyotard's versions of radical breaks from modernity, to others seeking more integration with critical theory. Some claim to have moved beyond postmodern to something called postpostmodern that would include hybrids (postmodern variants with modern and premodern), language 'heteroglossia' (the coexistence of many voices at the same time in tension with each other), and various 'dark side postmoderns' looking at global reterritorialization, postmodern war, postcolonialism and the ills of capitalism"
(David M. Boje, 2007)
1). Postmodernism - by David M. Boje (2007) To appear in Yiannis Gabrielís Thesaurus, London: Oxford University Press, forthcoming
"Viral marketing has generated a lot of excitement in recent years, in part because it seems like the ultimate free lunch: Pick some small number of people to 'seed' your idea, product, or message; get it to 'go viral'; and then watch while it spreads relentlessly to reach millions, all on a shoestring marketing budget.
Adding to this intuitive appeal, viral ideas, products and media also make compelling stories. 'Flash mobs', started by Bill Wasik as something between a social experiment and an art project, became popular in New York City in the summer of 2003, and then spread around the world as imitators as far afield as Asia, Europe, South America, and Australia copied Wasik's idea. Amusing videos like the 'Star Wars Kid', and entertaining or controversial websites like Jib Jab's 2004 election spoof and 'blackpeopleloveus.com' also started from small initial groups of people and ultimately attracted millions of unique visitors, often generating additional exposure from an interested mass media. And viral email forwards, like one initiated by a customer who ordered Nike shoes customized with the word 'Sweatshop', or another describing an intimate exchange between a London lawyer and his onetime girlfriend, made news headlines and generated considerably notoriety for its authors, after reaching a global audience of millions via word-of-mouth networks.
Viral marketing, however, is much easier to tell stories about than to implement. For every high profile example of a viral product, there are many more unsuccessful attempts that one never hears about. Moreover, predicting which of these attempts will succeed and which will not is extremely hard, if not impossible-even for experienced practitioners. After the fact, it is usually possible to understand what was entertaining, titillating, or otherwise intriguing about a given viral entity; but it is rarely obvious in advance. For example, in a recent 'contagious media' contest conducted by the media art nonprofit Eyebeam.org, a roomful of subject matter experts failed to predict which of 60 submitted websites would generate the most page views. Even creators of successful viral projects are rarely able to repeat their success with subsequent projects. Indeed, looking across a wide range both of successful and also unsuccessful attempts over the past several years, there is little in the way of attributes to which one might ascribe consistently viral properties. As a result, is extremely difficult, and perhaps impossible to consistently create media that will spread virally from a small seed to millions of people.
Thus as appealing as the viral model of marketing seems in theory, its practical implementation is greatly complicated by its low success rate-a problem that is exacerbated by the constraints imposed by the commercial, political, or social agendas inherent to marketing campaigns. One may need to design and conduct dozens or even hundreds of such campaigns before one of them succeeds; and even if a campaign is successful at spreading it still might not propagating the desired message of the advertiser."
(Duncan J. Watts, Jonah Peretti, and Michael Frumin)