In 2011, scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute declared that when just 10% of a population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society. Malcom Gladwell called this the tipping point, and even wrote a book about it. One that went on to become part of the zeitgeist of social theory and, we could argue, therefore created a new critical mass for exposing the idea of critical mass! Today we like to call people ‘influencers,’ ‘gurus,’ ‘trailblazers.’ – those we look to for assurance of whats cool and good to be buying, doing, and talking about at dinner parties or condensing into 280 word tweets that will show how oh so au courant we really are… But beyond personal representation, how can we use this new rule of thumb to better understand society, and the role of choice, exposure, and privilege. Considering the input and output of spare time this week: they say we are the sum total of the 5 people we hang around with the most. So what percentage of our person is being made up of the ideas and activities we consume and take part in day to day? The consequences of how we choose to spend our leisure time may seem insignificant, irrelevant even. But statistics show we appear to be declining in our collective hunger for literary imagination and information.
53% of millennials in America have admitted they would struggle to find their way somewhere without using their mobile phone, with 15% never having looked at an old style map. Today, 27% of adults say they have not read any books in the past year, and only 36% (roughly 510 mil) of China’s 1.4 billion people say they read something on a daily basis. The number of visits to UK public libraries fell by 12.4% in 2014, with an 18.3% decrease in book borrowers. Since then, Netflix has made up 15% of the total downstream volume of traffic across the entire internet. With its 117.5 million subscribers watching 140 million hours of content on average per day.
How many of our personal opinions and ideologies are we just picking up because they’ve been laid down by someone in authority? How often are we engaging with critical thinking when we consume media or chose what content to view and devour? We think it’s time to bring back glory to the bookish, well informed fringe folk, pushing the boundaries and cutting their own intellectual path.
That’s why this week we’ve selected some books and talks we love to help get your synapses firing:
1. Conversations with friends by Sally Rooney. “Written with gemlike precision and marked by a sly sense of humour, Conversations with Friends is wonderfully alive to the pleasures and dangers of youth, and the messy edges of female friendship.”
2. The Line of Beauty by Alan Holinghurst. “Line for line, Hollinghurst’s novel about London during the 1980s is the most exquisitely written book of witty observations about politics, society, and family, opening like little revelations on every page.”
3. Feel free: essays by Zadie Smith. “Smith applying her razor sharp intellect to the ideas shaping the present day.” Need we say more?
4. Writers on writing, with Charlie Rose. Interviews with famous British literary voices on the power of storytelling HERE.
5. Everybody loves Louis Theroux! A great interview about honouring difference in his journalistic endeavours HERE.
Image: Christopher J Fowler.