Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Long Tail

Just finished another life-changing book—The Long Tail by Chris Anderson.

I guess you'd have to call it an economics book, but to me it was also anthropological, philosophical, a study of the Internet and communications, and an examination of the power of choice. Because of the Internet, we have so much more power as individuals than we've ever had before. The profound change this has wrought (or wreaked, if you think havoc has ensued) throughout society is already pervasive and irreversible—and it kind of snuck up on us, didn't it?

Here are some excerpts. And, because this is an blog centered on spirituality, try to read these with that in mind. I think all these passages have implications for spiritual movements as well as economic markets.

For a generation of customers used to doing their buying research via search engine, a company's brand is not what the company says it is, but what Google says it is. The new tastemasters are us. Word of mouth is now a public conversation, carried in blog comments and customer reviews, exhaustively collated and measured. The ants have megaphones.

Google doesn't try to force things to happen their way. They try to figure out what's going to happen, and arrange to be standing there when it does.

One person's "good" could easily be another's "bad"; indeed it almost always is. … If a producer intends something to be absolutely right for one audience, it will, by definition, be wrong for another. The compromises necessary to make something appeal to everyone mean it will almost certainly not appeal to anyone—that's why they call it the lowest common denominator.

Broadly, the Long Tail is about abundance. Abundant shelf space, abundant distribution, abundant choice. How awkward, then, that one of the definitions of economics given by Wikipedia is: "the social science of choice under scarcity." … It's hard to overstate how fundamental to economics the notion is that you can't have it all for free—the entire discipline is oriented around studying trade-offs and how they're made. … Abundance, like growth itself, is a force that is changing our world in ways that we experience every day, whether we have an equation to describe it or not.

Fundamentally, a society that asks questions and has the power to answer them is a healthier society than one that simply accepts what it's told from a narrow range of experts and institutions. … Although the decline of mainstream cultural institutions may result in some people turning to echo chambers of like-minded views, I suspect that over time the power of human curiosity combined with near-infinite access to information will tend to make most people more open-minded, not less.

I love these conclusions! Ants having megaphones, niche markets, abundance, open-mindedness. The world has changed in so many remarkable ways. How can these trends not have spiritual implications as well?

Or perhaps in fact these developments are an indication of spiritual growth that has already occurred. Now, that's a concept.

Your ideas and inspiration are welcome! Please comment below or Contact Laura.
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At 3/01/2007 07:18:00 PM, Blogger Elizabeth said...

Or really both - spiritual growth fueling these changes, and the changes just giving back in more spiritual growth.

Neat excerpts that you shared. Will have to check out this book sometime.


At 3/03/2007 01:23:00 PM, Blogger Kim said...

Thanks for your good book reports!
It seems that as we continue to have more and more infomraiton available to us, we become more open minded, yes, but also, we get better at discerning what it is that is substantial to us - which is another way of saying what has spiritual meaning for us. We are better able to discern spiritually what will bring us all peace and progress.


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