My YouTube obsession


  • Social brain

My Youtube obsession

I’m finding it hard not to become obsessive about checking the viewing figures for my RSA Animate. It reminds me of a few years ago when I wrote a book with my old man. It got part serialised (in The Times I think) and for a day climbed the Amazon charts reaching the heady heights of the top fifty. Thereafter it fell inexorably and now every year I get a royalties statement from the publisher which is always a negative figure.

There was a point a few days in, when we were still in the top thousand, when I flirted (as so many other authors must have done) with buying ten copies myself to see if I could start a reverse trend. Given the pretty ghastly reviews the book received, the fact that I didn’t try to rig the market is one of the few scraps of dignity I can take from the whole episode.

But the YouTube number is continuing to rise, which makes it all the more addictive. I find myself day dreaming complex theories about on-line contagion effects. The viewing figure is rising steadily at about 5-6,000 a day, but how long until the momentum runs out? Is there a certain window of time in which an acceleration of take-up has to take place, and if so, how long is it?

The main value of the video is that it is helping get the RSA brand out world wide. But it is also great to see the ideas being debated.  For example, blogs by Duncan Green and Julian Evans have been talking about them.  Julian and I have had an email conversation following his post (I'm delighted that he is thinking of becoming a Fellow).  Like a number of critiques of this and others of my lectures he worries about the strength and linearity with which I link evidence about human nature to actual human behaviour.

My defence goes back to my elephant rider metaphor in which our conscious self is the rider, our automatic systems the elephant and the social context the jungle. I like this metaphor but am having to accept that it doesn’t seem to resonate with other people. The point I am trying to make is not simply that what we can do is conditioned by who we are as a species and the situation in which we find ourselves,  but also that we use our freedom as riders most effectively when we understand how we operate and how we are constrained. It is when we see how our conscious self is only a part of what we are that we understand what an amazing part it is and how best to use this amazing mysterious capacity to be fulfilled and effective people.

So, far from being a neurological determinist I believe that the key to being powerful self-directed individuals is to understand our physiological and social nature. But somehow I’m not managing to get this across. Is it because the point is simplistic, wrong, or the metaphor inept or something else?

Do tell me….

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