connections

While at the bookstore yesterday, I spied a new edition of science historian's James Burke's classic book, Connections. This book, and the accompanying ten episode television series of the same name, is a vivid example of the power of seemingly minor events to change history.

Each episode centers around a small breakthrough that almost inevitably leads to a radical transformation in contemporary life. Initially, these changes appear to have nothing to do with what they lead to (e.g. an innovation in Dutch ships allows plastics to be produced). Although this might seem to be an exercise in a historiography of the accident, it is far from it. Burke's goal is to underscore how the world we live in is not the product of either a single, inexorable march forward or from happy accidents and little guys made good (the Paul Harvey approach) but rather from a complex, network of connections, of individual moments of agency linking together into a larger whole.

Since I bought my iPhone, I have found myself watching more videos on the train to and from the Studio-X space from our Montclair, New Jersey apartment. Today I had the opportunity to watch the Trigger Effect, episode 1 of the series. I don't want to give much away, but you'll soon find out that the series begins at the foot of the World Trade Center. Burke is at his best here and watching this video after 9/11 only underscores the validity of his thesis. I haven't watched Burke's look back at Connections, Re-Connections, but I hope to do so on another ride today or tomorrow. It's worth noting as well that Burke is creating a new project called the Knowledge Web which intends to use the Internet to network Burke's research.

 

 

I enjoyed watching Connections when it was first broadcast on PBS in the 1970s. The show sparked an interest in history and the role of networks in history for me and Robert Sumrell, my partner in AUDC, was similarly struck by the show. Although we should have credited Burke in the acknowledgments, he's on the long list of individuals that we should have credited but didn't. Consciously or not, Blue Monday is very much a product of Burke's method.

This is something important to realize as some readers of Blue Monday have suggested that it is a book about three (or seven) quirky moments and our research into these marginal conditions. Far from it. Much like Burke—or our mentors at the Museum of Jurassic Technology and the Center for Land Use Interpretation—Blue Monday sets out to uncover the complexity and richness of the world from the incidents around us.

While at the bookstore yesterday, I spied a new edition of science historian's James Burke's classic book, Connections. This book, and the accompanying ten episode television series of the same name, is a vivid example of the power of seemingly minor events to change history.

Each episode centers around a small breakthrough that almost inevitably leads to a radical transformation in contemporary life. Initially, these changes appear to have nothing to do with what they lead to (e.g. an innovation in Dutch ships allows plastics to be produced). Although this might seem to be an exercise in a historiography of the accident, it is far from it. Burke's goal is to underscore how the world we live in is not the product of either a single, inexorable march forward or from happy accidents and little guys made good (the Paul Harvey approach) but rather from a complex, network of connections, of individual moments of agency linking together into a larger whole.

Since I bought my iPhone, I have found myself watching more videos on the train to and from the Studio-X space from our Montclair, New Jersey apartment. Today I had the opportunity to watch the Trigger Effect, episode 1 of the series. I don't want to give much away, but you'll soon find out that the series begins at the foot of the World Trade Center. Burke is at his best here and watching this video after 9/11 only underscores the validity of his thesis. I haven't watched Burke's look back at Connections, Re-Connections, but I hope to do so on another ride today or tomorrow. It's worth noting as well that Burke is creating a new project called the Knowledge Web which intends to use the Internet to network Burke's research.

 

 

I enjoyed watching Connections when it was first broadcast on PBS in the 1970s. The show sparked an interest in history and the role of networks in history for me and Robert Sumrell, my partner in AUDC, was similarly struck by the show. Although we should have credited Burke in the acknowledgments, he's on the long list of individuals that we should have credited but didn't. Consciously or not, Blue Monday is very much a product of Burke's method.

This is something important to realize as some readers of Blue Monday have suggested that it is a book about three (or seven) quirky moments and our research into these marginal conditions. Far from it. Much like Burke—or our mentors at the Museum of Jurassic Technology and the Center for Land Use Interpretation—Blue Monday sets out to uncover the complexity and richness of the world from the incidents around us.

One thought on “connections

  1. “Engines Of Our Ingenuity”
    This reminds me of the another NPR program [[http://www.uh.edu/engines/engines.htm|”Engines Of Our Ingenuity”]]. In this program, host John Lienhard takes the listener through the connections of some machine, inventor, discovery or the like through it’s relation to other historical event or person and brings the listener back to the original topic.

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