TED Conversations

Dyed All Hues

Thinker and Experimenter,


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To what extent has everything become a popularity contest in the world?

My observation of America is as follows:

Many experts of their fields aren't recognized for their expertise/work like Diane Kelly making an obscure discovery of a taboo subject, but celebrity fashion, politician hair styles, Darwin Award worthy deaths, extremism, and the "perfect" --fill in the blank-- is always on the latest tabloids. I want to learn more about different parts of the world and how they function. Is it like a rat race for fame? Hopefully they seem less superficial.

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    Jun 10 2012: Just looking at TED's big three (Technology-Entertainment- Design), I think popularity is a factor in all of them. For example, Apple is popular in technology and many folks buy for that reason alone, having no technologocal knowledge or interest in the product. In entertainment, of course popularity reigns supreme! And in design, automobile manufacturers, for example, produce good sales numbers by advertising slogans like, "America's Best Selling Truck!" People respond by choosing their product solely because it is believed to be the most popular. My answer to your question is, "to an all-encompassing extent."
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      Jun 10 2012: How might you change this "all-encompassing extent" to be exposing more light upon less popular subjects, whereas it becomes the new "popular".
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        Jun 10 2012: I don't know.
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          Jun 13 2012: Alright, that is a valid, but difficult to work with, answer. Thanks for the honesty edward. Any others reading this post can freely comment on my question for edward.
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        Jun 13 2012: The task of working with something that is "difficult to work with" is a vivid example of something being not popular. You are welcome.
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          Jun 13 2012: Possibly in your "I don't know" was an answer in disguise. ;)

          Nice! =)
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    Jun 9 2012: I think there's the perception there because of media saturation. It's not real, just over-emphasised by a media that constantly scrapes lower in the barrel for sensationalism and gossip-based information.

    I also believe the social network bubble will soon burst as people begin to realise that SN is not as important as all the advertisers and marketers believe.

    Sure, young people are more susceptible to advertising, but it isn't only young people using the internet and young people grow up, usually into a different set of priorities.
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    Jun 8 2012: I don't think everything is about popularity, but I think the ease with which we can all publish our ideas digitally means that there is a lot of competition for attention. Those most focused on gaining attention will, I think, be most likely to get attention. We all encounter situations in which ideas or products we might consider come to us as a package of their own characteristics and the marketing attached to them. People are often choosing products or ideas based more on the promotional characteristics rather than the characteristics of the underlying "merchandise."
    When there are so many ideas and objects out there, our "bounded rationality" shows. That is, we cannot know, or take the time and make the effort to know and understand all of our options, whether of ideas or products. The less central a matter is to our body of concerns, the more likely we are to take the easy way of choosing among things that most readily catch our attention.
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    Jun 8 2012: I agree. Society emphasizes "leveling up" by attaining friends, followers, and TEDCRED :)

    This is difficult to sidestep since the pervasiveness of gossip-based media consistently claims that the "grass is greener" among the rich and famous. As a result, those who mirror their self-acceptance through impossibly high popularity standards fall short of the mark.

    I think that's why we all love this site. It's real; it's tangible; through TED we witness workable solutions to difficult problems and gain insights of the intelligent collective.
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      Jun 24 2012: Some conversations on TED have challenged, where have you stopped conversating and started doing after being on TED's sites?

      I am stumped at times, but I take super baby steps. For instance, I aspire to purchase a book suggested in a tedtalk, and my way of thinking has begun to evolve as well, so far that's it. =P
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    Jun 21 2012: So make it happen.
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      Jun 21 2012: How? or maybe I should ask, Where do I start? Is awareness a good first step?
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        Jun 21 2012: "I want to learn more about different parts of the world and how they function." How would you envision this? One of the things i think is happening is that so many people are moving into online that TV and tabloids are scrambling for what is left watching and reading that media. So, with that in mind, what could we do to change this paradigm?
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          Jun 22 2012: I think that the world wide web is a vast pool of information; I would even arguably call it an inifinite pool of information. I believe the older generations and money makers of the TV and tabloids are fighting to put laws on this pool of infinite information, but they must learn to embrace it. This will begin to create an era of new competition a world wide competition for attention and "ratings", but ratings are what makes things popular in the first place, so I feel as though moving away from this paradigm of "ratings" for media outlets will somehow propel progressiveness into the next group of leaders. The "how/what" we can do is gain more experiences through exposure and awareness campaigns for all sorts of things. Ted.com is one source that campaigns for this "awareness campaign" and the exposure is us tedsters looking away from our mirrors and start shining light upon others that haven't realized they are living within Platos' Cave. =)

          Education is also a nice tool, but costly and not everyone is taught patience and perserverance from their parents, like me. I learned all these life skills from my own mistakes and experiences. I, then, try and "spread the word" in a slow and subtle way by putting myself in certain dangers and also risk being "unliked", but such is life and it is a big universe, so I don't worry too much about feeling lonesome, most of the time. =P
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    Jun 21 2012: Maybe it's not so much that subjects are just cases of popularity, and that popularity is what all things revolve around, but more so that popularity is a simple factor just like anything else. Popularity is like an extension of communication itself. First comes communication and then comes the degree of communication-how popular is it? the things people talk about have, of course, steered the world to a degree as we have moved to and from philosophies like Romanticism and even styles of thinking like Science. Popularity is powerful, but not the center of attention. It's like the saying "only as strong as the weakest link". If there were no subject to be spoken of, it wouldn't matter how much we wanted to talk about it, it wouldn't happen!
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      Jun 21 2012: Well in that case, I am specifically looking for the weakest links to American pop culture. Why do we stick to these popular subjects that seem superficial? How does society change this superficiality?

      I feel education is important, and well equipped knowledgeable parents.
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        Jun 21 2012: I've been thinking a lot about this and wrote an essay on Tim O' Briens' book The Things They Carried. In the book he claims that A: the truths are contradictory and B: a true war story can never birth a moral axiom. I illustrated the essay with perspective: the glass is neither half empty nor half full, yet both at the same time. The truths are contradictory depending on your perspective. This even goes back to Hegel- the truth is a synthesis of the thesis and antithesis (the to opposing perspectives),
        The point I like best, though, was that a Vietnam soldier, for example, could burn down a village and feel terrible about this-he knows no truth beyond his anecdotal experience! A politician may see that act as completely necessary, saying "we are stopping communism, so it is justified."
        But really, how can we be sure it is either? This two opposing truths cannot coexist.. can they?
        Another example would be how a veteran may say "you don't know war until you've fought" and I feel they have a good idea, but aren't completely correct. I think it is more like: we, non-soldiers, don't know war from the perspective of a soldier, until we've fought, but we still know it as statistics and so forth.
        Yes, there is a difference here, but only in genuine but limited experience, and wide-ranged but dry knowledge and stats.
        The perspective of war we take on depends. Even the synthesis is a position, really. The reason why so many people believe the same thing, or think the same thing about subjects so popular like wars is because of the Media. There are only so many news channels reporting it how they wish and that is all the truth we, non-soldiers, receive. What can we know or think? TV can illustrate the war as intended in 30 minutes all across America. There is no default perspective (the war really IS this way, any other way is not the true way to see it) but we flock to common positions because we have common sources of information.