Saturday, September 5, 2015

"The Tipping Point", "Globalization in a Bottle", and "Chapter 1: Introduction to Human Geography"

Conner Lewis
September 5
"Hip-hop culture emerged out of an atmosphere of disappointment and disillusionment." -

            Poor African Americans in the ghetto wanted to express their dissatisfaction with their situation and the conditions in which they lived, but the middle and upper class avoided dealing with their issues so the younger generations in the ghetto started to rap about their lives and problems, then it caught on to the mainstream through the success of groups such as N.W.A. and diffused to other parts of society.


Crocs were initially sold to sailors in Florida, until it diffused to sailors along the eastern coast of the United States.



The Tipping Point

Globalization in a Bottle

Human Geography: Chapter One

     Essay Question: What do The Tipping Point, Globalization in a Bottle, and Human Geography: Chapter One have to say on how epidemics spread?

     “It is that the best way to understand the emergence of [trends] is to think of them as epidemics. Ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread just like viruses do.” This theory is one that drives much of how and why human geographers study. It is the belief that change can be observed, tracked, and predicted like the spread of disease which makes the field of human geography so important and interesting. As this is the case, many geographers have attempted to classify and explain how epidemics spread to become epidemics. The Tipping Point breaks down characteristics of their spread, while Human Geography: Chapter One attempts to classify and explain of how epidemics can diffuse through society. Globalization in a Bottle shows how all these principles can come together through an example.
     The Tipping Point states that all epidemics have three characteristics in common with how they spread; one, contagiousness; two, that little causes can have big effects; and three, that change happens not gradually but at one dramatic moment. The first principle, contagiousness, is the fact that ideas, movements, and products can spread from person to person, is described by Human Geography: Chapter One through several different processes, all under the idea of expansion diffusion, which is when an idea, product, or message will be developed and used independently at an area called a hearth and from their spread to nearby areas.. The main two ideas behind expansion diffusion are contagious diffusion and hierarchical diffusion. Contagious diffusion is the idea that when the epidemic in question is being used by one area or group of people, and then spreads out equally in every direction as every newly affected person then spreads it to those with which they have contact and so on. Hierarchical diffusion is when an idea or product spreads selectively out of a
hearth to those that are more susceptible to it, much like how some diseases only spread to those with specific traits or genes. For example Crocs footwear was initially designed to be targeted at sailors, and thus was quickly adopted by sailors. Crocs were then found to be useful for gardeners as well, as the resin material used was beneficial to that occupation as well, and so it spread to gardeners. Thus the hierarchical use of Crocs was sailors, to gardeners, and from there it diffused contagiously through society as these two initial users became the hearth from which Crocs began to spread. As this example shows, through contagious and hierarchical diffusion, human geographers can easily track the growth of not just diseases, but other aspects of human life as well.
     The Tipping Point’s second principle, that little causes can have big effects, can be compared to what has been previously called a hearth, also known as a cultural hearth. It is the concept that small changes in one area to an already established concept can spread to have large effects on the culture as a whole. Through the different forms of diffusion previously described, a very small tweak in a product can spread to have much larger effects. By making Crocs more suitable for sailors, it was inadvertently changed to also be useful for gardeners. Then came the introduction of Jibbitz, or small jewelry-like decorations made for Crocs. These small decorative pieces of plastic made little change to the function of Crocs as footwear, however had a very large effect in sales to children, as even the slight change in appearance allowed children to customize and personalize their Crocs. Through the introduction of this small product to the larger one, Crocs became one of the most popular forms of footwear throughout the nation. Small changes such as this in hearths can allow for further hierarchical diffusion, as the cultural trait is changed to accommodate more and more people.
     The Tipping Point’s third principle states that change happens not gradually, but in one dramatic moment. This can be further tied into the ideas of contagious diffusion as it is when a situation reaches its boiling point. It can be argued that this is also the moment when the hierarchical diffusion spreads much more rapidly due to specific conditions being met. The Tipping Point states that its title was first used to discuss how whites would move out of a neighborhood when the number of African Americans would reach a critical mass. This is a different form of hierarchical diffusion, for this is the point when a certain group’s required prerequisites are met for the epidemic to spread to them. In this case, white communities had a specific ratio of whites to African Americans which when met, made them eligible to affected by the “moving-away” epidemic. The Tipping Point itself is that moment when the prerequisites are met and the group finally becomes susceptible to the epidemic itself. This can also be seen again in the spread of Crocs, as when the prerequisite for children was met, that it be fit for play through its durability as well as be decorative and personalized, the Tipping Point was hit and the epidemic spread. The reason change often occurs very quickly is that all groups have certain needs and desires, and upon these being reached and satisfied by an idea or product, these groups are then open to the use of that idea or product.
     Human Geography: Chapter One also makes the point to discuss how several factors can impede epidemics. Time-distance decay is the concept that hearths can only spread ideas so far. If two areas take too much time for ideas to travel between them, say for example there is an impassable mountain range, then ideas will not diffuse their way across to the people on the other side due to the time and effort that would be required. The same effect occurs when the hearth or nearest area using the idea is too far from another group of people, then the idea will not spread to the far away lands as it would simply take too long. Cultural barriers can also stop the spread of epidemics, as they are simply when a concept cannot be accepted by a different culture due to currently in place taboos, beliefs, or ideas.
     Globalization in a Bottle successfully combines all three concepts laid out in The Tipping Point and explained in Human Geography: Chapter One by using the rise of Coca-Cola as a perfect example. The first characteristic, contagiousness, is discussed when Coca-Cola spread to American military bases across every continent except Antartica. By creating these small factories in each base, which acted as a hearth of American culture and Coca-Cola consumption, Coca-Cola was able to diffuse contagiously throughout societies across the world, especially during reconstruction, as the American soldiers brought it everywhere they went and diffused it into the native population. The second characteristic, that small causes can have big effects, can also be seen in the production of Coca-Cola on site in military bases. By choosing to produce Coca-Cola in bases rather than ship it from America, these factories were already established at the end of the war, allowing for the epidemic of Coca-Cola to diffuse quickly from these already established hearths. It was the small change of creating the Coke closer to the buyers that allowed it to quickly fill the gap of established drinking brands and factories during the period of reconstruction which followed the war. The third characteristic, that change happens very quickly, can also be seen in the spread of Coca Cola. It is important to note how scale is a factor here. Where as with the previous example of the Tipping Point showing how white people would quickly move out of neighborhoods, here the Tipping Point is being discussed on a global scale, and thus “very quick change” is referring to the span of about five years, which is very fast for any brand to spread across the entire globe. Coca-Cola managed to spread itself across the entire world in under a decade, becoming one of the very first brands to spread across every continent, except Antarctica, and be bought in every part of the world. Through all of these characteristics, Globalization in a Bottle manages to show a perfect example of an epidemic which is still relevant today.
     All of these readings combine to show how useful human geography can be in analyzing and understanding human behavior and trends. By thinking about human behavior in the same analytical way that scientists look at disease, humans can be more easily understood and predicted. All of these readings show exactly how epidemics of ideas can spread exactly the same as diseases, and thus prove how relevant human geography can truly be in mapping all parts of human culture and behavior.


Extra Credit:
A video furthering the idea of hip-hop's diffusion throughout many cultures

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