Urgent Evoke

A crash course in changing the world.

Culture is the weapon, not the battle ground

Of the 33 secrets, #2 (The first #2) stood out as best and most true for me:

Don’t fight culture (If people cook by stirring their stews, they’re not going to use a solar oven, no matter what you do to market it. Make
them a better stove instead.)
--Ethan Zuckerman

I couldn't agree more. Culture isn't an obstacle to be overcome on the way to changing people's behavior. Culture is the actual process by which people adopt new habits and shed old traditions.

I haven't done enough thinking and talking on this topic to be as thorough and concise as I'd like, and unfortunately I can't find a link for I'm heavily indebted to the Gordon R. D***son book "Pro" that informs a lot of my ideas. Here goes anyway:

Yes, Culture is the acc**ulated amalgamation of behaviors that have become ingrained, reflexive, and self-perpetuating... But each of those behaviors is the medium for messages that can confirm, challenge, and sometimes even change the others. If you want to shield your children from Disney, you're going to have to keep them out of McDonald's. And if you want to shield your children from fast-food, you're going to have to be very restrictive about their play-dates. On the other hand, if you want to equip your children with their own defense mechanisms against corporate consumer Culture, well, a TiVo and a bunsen burner and a good grasp of Socratic method might provide for some useful dissections/deconstructions/dialogue. Rigid discipline might forestall the encroachments of corporate consumer Culture for awhile... But a family Culture of critical thinking and analysis will probably do more to develop resistance.

While the election of an African American President in the United States can be viewed as an enormous change in Culture, it's really a triumph his campaign organizations direct use of Culture. They didn't mount a "race relations" campaign. They didn't go after any values and morals re-education agenda. The Obama campaign used the current cultural tools of emails, social networking, text messages, etcetera, to run a very traditional grassroots populist Democratic campaign. They also paid extremely close attention to the codified Culture of the Democratic party, via its primary voting rules. That's Culture as the weapon for change, not the battle ground.

There's a tendency in education reform to talk about "changing the Culture," and I presume that the trope shows up in other reformist circles. I understand that what's meant is "let's change the self-defeating ideas," or thereabouts. I'm far more interested in using Cultural practices to distribute change. You can't fight Culture directly, but you can use a group's Culture to enact change on itself. In fact, (and there's a wh*** other post here that I may not be smart enough to write) enacting change upon itself is the true purpose of Culture.

Views: 19

Comment by Comelia Tang on March 14, 2010 at 2:43pm
Good post. Culture is the backbone of societies.
Comment by Wasserperson on March 18, 2010 at 5:22am
My best hope/rationalization for the network is that it's intentionally missing some of the best practices of social networks, because it's meant to catalyze our connections and behaviors on other sites...


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