I’m enjoying reading the last Harry Potter in part because so many other people on the train are reading it. Last summer there were banners on the Libraries in Cambridge announcing that Cambridge was reading some book and they got me to imagining what that would be like. Stepping onto the bus, chatting with the bus driver about a particular scene or character. Waiting at the corner for the light and striking up a conversation with another pedestrian about that plot twist in the third chapter. You can do that with the Harry Potter, and people do; the book acts as a kind of gang colors inviting the conversation.
The ebb and flow of block busters in the culture is part of the symptoms of the highly skew’d distributions that permeate networks. The book I’m reading on cities includes an argument that mass media was extremely corrosive to the civic sphere. At one time cities had an unimaginably rich ecology of civic groups. To put it simply, with the arrival of television everybody suddenly just stayed home; and the civic groups evaporated. It’s the bowling alone story or the collapse of social networks story, but much earlier.
A friend pointed this out to me this morning, an early form of cinema
That would travel about, tickets were sold, a man would read a narration, the hand painted scroll would be displayed to the gathered audience. Now we look at uTube on our iPhones alone, later maybe, forwarding them to our mySpace contacts.