30 December 2009

Book Review: The Tipping Point

Last Christmas break I dedicated my time to movie watching. This year I changed my medium slightly, turning to literature. Don't believe, even for a micro second, that I have not been watching inordinate amounts of film, however. Ever since I stopped spending between 8-9 hours a day playing 'Sim City 1995' I have found plenty of time in my day to do things I enjoy, such as playing 'Sim City 1998,' climbing trees, reading, and dry cleaning my shoes.
I recently finished my first book: The Tipping Point, a non-fiction work by Malcolm Gladwell, and I intend to give an exhaustive communique in the ensuing 1,000 pages.
It was good.

To be honest, I stormed through the book in a week and only put it down for 'Sim City 1998' and a trip to Puerto Rico. It provided a fancy summary of many social experiments and psychological observations, most of which were outdated by twenty or more years. Mr. Gladwell would be gladwell to provide his dutiful followers with a follow-up book, citing such social phenomes as Facebook and referencing studies that were made after Saved by The Bell... was released on DVD. Nevertheless (since when was it okay to combine three words into one? Canicallthisoneword.) the book was fascinating. Secretly I thought it would reveal to me in Ann Landers fashion how to push David's Holla Atchya Blog to its tipping point, but alas, that is still unknown by all but a select few, which does not include me. Actually, one issue I had with the book was the misappropriation of the words 'tipping point.'
I kept waiting for the one thing on the one day that pushed the epidemics (as Gladwell calls them) over the precipice and into history. The tipping point implies there is an figurative edge that epidemics must be thrown off of, but in reality the tipping points generally came after much study and evaluation, and even then the changes took months and sometimes years to fully reach their outer extrema. Perhaps the most interesting example cited was the cessation of major crime on the New York Transit System in the same decade as Saved by the Bell, although the two were not correlated (surprisingly). The criminality of the streetcars grew to such magnanimus proportions that people were getting shot, robbed, and raped on the subway cars. The NYTA was losing booku bucks as hundreds of thousands of users were bypassing the thoroughfare. Graffiti was rampant and glass was shattered. And then suddenly it stopped- much like the mail on a holiday. Gladwell explains the reason, which he calls the 'broken glass' theory. The theory is that if a neighborhood has broken windows, people will assume the area is forsaken, and before long panhandlers and thieves occupy the quadrant. Not long after that the whole region is untidy and considered the ghetto. Essentially the broken glass theory says what the Scriptures confirm, that "by small and simple things are great things brought to pass" (Alma 37:6). If you fix up the broken windows (small thing) then great things will happen (ghetto turns to great-o). So what the NYTA decided upon, was to stop the small infractions rather than focus on the murders. They cracked down on fare-beaters and graffitti on the streetcars. For example, they had as many as 10 plain clothes officers at any one station, and when someone jumped the turnstills they were immediately arrested and chained to the wall for a few hours (while paperwork was processed) as a public example of where farebeaters end up. After four or five years, the 'tipping point' finally hit, although to me it was more of a 'tipping turtle' because it took so much research and time. At that point (chronologically it was episode 3, season 4 of Saved by the Bell) the overall crime on the Metro fell off, and today it is so safe that I use it to store my uncashed paychecks, right under seat 3, car 11 on the C line.
That was just one small vignette that Mr. Gladwell shared in The Tipping Point. His other points, though often redundantly repetitive, were intriguing for anybody. I would recommend the book, and I would recommend to Malcom a current sequel. That was a long post, but it wasn't that informative; my apologies.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Haha oh Dave, you are so funny. Great review. :) I had to read The Tipping Point for my major and actually enjoyed it a lot, despite its outdatedness.. Though I agree it would be nice to hear Gladwell's take on recent social phenomena. I know he's come out with a few other books in the past few years.. maybe those address it. Anyway, this post from you was an entertaining read, as always!