April 06, 2005
Thought Contagions and Dissonance
cross-posted from my place
The concept of “prior existence” as invoked by both Lynch and Urban has me wondering about dissonance. It seems there’s a “dissonatic” component to the organic and evolutionary nature of popular notions (understandings) of culture that Lynch and Urban propose. Tying some of this ramble back to Jen’s comments, in some ways we teach to students to write based on some understand (ours and theirs) between what is known and what might be. The known is often (too often?) embedded in genre, but nonetheless we are still addressing or teaching to some disparity between their thoughts and their words. (disclaimer: I’m borrowing – perhaps incorrectly – from Flower here).
So let me work through this: Thought contagions are embedded in certain documents – artifacts that establish the foundation of preexisting idea. Working from this foundation, our students (with and without our prompting) act as a critical mass population reflecting on the preexisting idea (dissonance in the form of exigency). Some may accept the preexisting idea (in fact, be acting upon the contagion if we accept Lynch), but others will transform the idea through dissonance – showing that more X (value, meaning, appeal to human nature, wealth, etc.) can be extracted from a slightly different form of the idea.
Here I go over-simplifying again: Generational differences and influences aside, it would seem that a population would transform (or transition from) a preexisting idea simply because the older idea fails to solve or address some important group of problems (cultural or otherwise). Even if the expense (material, psychological, and emotional) could be justified by a large enough representation of the population, the massive inertia (which Lynch addresses) associated with the “application” of the older idea would seem to minimize, if not in some cases mitigate against the transformation. But if the population pushes hard enough for a kind of social order in which the older idea cannot easily reside, then there may be sufficient pressure to adopt the transformed or new idea.
I’m thinking less about cultural memes and more about technology here. Remember your first computer? Remember that period of time after Microsoft introduced Windows when everyone wanted a system with pop-up menus and icons? There was a huge shift from the preexisting ideas of analysis/design and information engineering, which failed to offer guidance to software developers. This brought about shift (somewhere in the mid-90s) to ideas of object-based programming which did provide useful guidance in regard to windows, pop-ups, mousse, etc. The point is that some external force created a dissonance that accelerated a movement to a newer generation of ideas which were based on the underlying frameworks of the older ideas, but which allowed developers to better address technologies, languages, tools, etc.
So many similarities. So little coherence in the way I’m trying to tie it all together.
Posted by mfrascie at April 6, 2005 09:47 PM