Believing in a tipping point

Victoria Ward
Victoria Ward

a tipping point

Is technology an extension of our consciousness? It is certainly where we are choosing to experiment with our beliefs and behaviours.  One phrase I now hear continually in these experimentations is tipping point. There is that book by Malcolm Gladwell which I never read and perhaps I would have a better understanding of the theory of the tipping point if I had. From what I gather the tipping point is an actual data mining idea that references the moment when a momentum changes. Since we now measure everything by algorithms the tipping point holds curious interest to those who need to follow trends in economic, political and social forces.

When did something change, what made it change and what is the impact of change? I’ve written here many times that Occupy Wall Street was a tipping point for the neo liberal narrative I have lived under my entire adult life.  Occupy made it fine to question capitalism and its various philosophies.  But as with everything in this ‘too much information’ age we live in, the media devalued the movement because of its lack of “conventional structure and ambitions”.  When conventionality is threatened this is usually the case. The future will be kinder to Occupy and all its adherents.

I often think about tipping points in painting. You can work for a very long time on something and never see it finished because you didn’t hit that vortex, that threshold when suddenly all your work falls into place and a painting exists when it didn’t only moments before. Up until that point you are just moving stuff all over a canvas searching for a path, an entry to something. It can be endlessly frustrating but exhilarating at the same time. Many times the tipping point is an accident; you make a rash decision and it’s horrible for the first little while. You’ve ruined the last six hours of your life and then, boom – it works and works better than if you planned it. How does this happen? I don’t ever want to know or have it analysed or anything. Please don’t ever tell me.

The tipping point theory as infographic. Idea completely taken from Google images, drawing all mine.
The tipping point theory as infographic. Idea completely taken from Google images, drawing all mine.

I am unsure however that this tipping point theory plays out in life as it is described by the various theorists I researched. It seems to me that in fact tipping points happen and then forces in life curtail their impact. For instance the internet is supposedly this awesome universe of creativity that has infinite capabilities for anyone who has an idea. However, conglomerates like Google and Yahoo are continually on the hunt for successful monetizing schemes. These companies are one step ahead looking for ways to make your idea part of their inventory: any newsletter that you now send out will get bundled into a different tab on gmail user’s accounts automatically. Your hard work is thrown into a promotional tab and no longer in the user’s primary tab giving it a lesser status and creating situations where people just don’t open it any more. Yahoo won’t even let you send them. In order to keep this from happening you will likely have to spend hundreds of dollars a month to have your newsletter reach your client’s primary emails. And so who wins at this game? Credit card companies and banks just like in the non-virtual world.

It’s discouraging because for awhile there the online thing seemed to be made for people like me; creative types with low incomes who need to find audiences. My community actually thought a tipping point was happening in our favour, alas this is no longer the case. The window of free and freedom has closed and if I want to be effective with things like this blog I will definitely have to put money into it even though I only ever saw this as an extension of my studio practice and I put ALL my money into that. Great shoes and fine jewellery are things I will never own.  But as I get discouraged I also get resourceful and I am not a pessimist; I think that things go up and down and life finds a great even-ing.

But the tipping point is interesting because what I see on social media is how much people seem to need this idea to be true. We all love to believe that something magical, mysterious changes our world, sets us off in new and great directions. This tipping point belief is kind of beautiful. I see this need as a reflection of how chaos still rules our universe no matter how many inventions and theories we have created. As an artist I am well equipped to handle chaos; it’s where I begin to make things and sometimes, if things just don’t go well where I end up.


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