Personal Blog of Joe Brewer

Archive for 2014|Yearly archive page

Revealing the Cultural Patterns of Social Movements

In Complex Systems, Cultural Evolution, Economic Patterns on May 1, 2014 at 7:02 am

Every wondered what the patterns of a social movement look like?  Check this out.  I created a graph for the number of Google keyword searches for the phrases Anonymous (the hacker group), Occupy Wall Street, and NSA to see how they change in time.  Each one has a different structure — which reveals important things about how ideas spread in society to produce cultural change.

Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 7.45.00 AM

Note how Anonymous (the red line) has a series of increasing peaks, each representing a new media event where they gained more exposure.  Each new event brought them more prominence and notoriety.  This is the process of becoming a recognizable and persistent part of the cultural zeitgeist.  Contrast this with the large single peak of Occupy Wall Street, which is the classic shape for a viral media event.  Occupy arose quickly, spread far and wide, then dissipated and largely went away.

This is different from the seeking of information about the NSA (National Security Agency), which was mostly non-existent until the release of classified documents by Edward Snowden.  This event is structured as a plateau with descending peaks to reveal how it rose to prominence and remained in the spot light as new batches of files were periodically released to the public.

All three events have different time signatures that reveal something important about how they (1) came into being; (2) influenced public awareness; and (3) left their mark (or not) on society.

Fascinating, isn’t it?

The Power Politics of Ignorance

In Cultural Evolution, Semantics and Perception, Social Change on April 29, 2014 at 12:11 pm

Did you know there are “product defense” firms whose primary mission is to confuse the public for financial gain?  These companies spread doubt about scientific findings so that tobacco companies can sell more cigarettes (which cause cancer), fossil fuel companies can delay climate action (to sell more oil), pharmaceutical companies can keep dangerous drugs on the market longer (to extend profits), and more.  Every time a large financial interest is threatened by knowledge, these PR firms step up to the plate and do their bidding.

This tells us something important about the science of social change — namely that what we DON’T know about something is part of the power politics of society. Continue reading “The Power Politics of Ignorance” »

Toward A Design Science of Cultural Change

In Complex Systems, Cultural Evolution, Global Integration, Social Change on April 24, 2014 at 8:39 am

Civilizations are complex systems that evolve and change through time.  For thousands of years they have risen and collapsed, grown in sophistication, battled and merged, and — in the 20th Century — forged together the first truly global incarnation of a human society.

Now, in the 21st Century, we have before us the difficult task of learning how to guide our civilization using intentional design. Continue reading “Toward A Design Science of Cultural Change” »

Hidden Significance of the Big Data Explosion

In Cultural Evolution, Economic Patterns, Global Integration, Social Change, Tech Innovation on April 17, 2014 at 8:30 am

The world is awash in data.  Billions of people routinely surf the web and click on links. They connect with their friends, like or block content to suit their preferences, and share information widely on social media sites.  This happens every single day.

Even more people get into cars, take buses and trains, board airplanes, or move around by human power on their commutes to work, exercise routines, daily errands, and to socialize with friends and family.  This also happens every single day. What most of us are just beginning to realize is that all of these activities (and many more) now produce streams of data.  Data that gets aggregated.  Data that is analyzed for patterns of meaning to be used by governments, research institutions, and commercial enterprises.  Data that makes visible the awe-inspiring dynamics of our human world. Continue reading “Hidden Significance of the Big Data Explosion” »