The Power of Invisible Scripts

    An old acquaintance of mine, Ramit Sethi, who also happens to be a successful financial blogger, New York Times bestselling author, and Stanford graduate with a  background in psychology (cue: namedrop + shameless plug) recently wrote a post entitled “The invisible scripts that guide our lives,” in which he discusses the invisible assumptions that exist within and across cultures, and how these invisible scripts are so deeply embedded that we don’t even realize they guide our attitudes and behaviors. He observes how many of our beliefs and actions are “pre-written by our societal values,” and how he became particularly aware of them (otherwise they wouldn’t be ‘invisible’), when confronted with contrasting invisible scripts, from different cultures. He goes on to discuss the financial implications, but the underlying theme resonated with me in light of this weeks’ readings.

     Similar to “invisible scripts,” David Singh Grewal discusses “standards,” in Network Power: The Social Dynamics of Globalization. A shared standard is a common way of doing something which facilitates cooperation, and the more it is used and accepted as a convention, the more others are compelled to adopt it as well, creating a self-perpetuating progression. These unspoken rules create a type of de facto peer pressure where, in order to participate or fit in, it is necessary to adhere to certain social conventions. Grewal points out that in the process of globalization, some standards are adopted for “extrinsic reasons” instead of “the inherent properties or qualities of that standard” (p.5), and he uses the rise and spread of the English language as an example.

    Although this “network power” is based on voluntary participation, how much choice does one really have?  In his talk on “Power, Dialogue and the Global Politics of the Internet,” Mikkel Flyverbom addressed similar themes in terms of “ordering.” He looks at the sociology of associations, and points out that power is not something that individuals have and then create links in order to use it together, but rather power itself is derived from the creation of networks, and is therefore assembled. Specifically, his examination of the Internet underlines how all of the micro-practices associated with the medium turn into power or authority. All of this leads me to wonder how these affect each of us at the micro-level and what kinds of invisible scripts, standards, and ordering are at work in my own life, influencing the decisions I make and the way I do things on a daily basis.

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One Response to The Power of Invisible Scripts

  1. annziker says:

    I really liked this week’s topic of networks and power- and how one creates the other for key actors in the network. I came out of your post with one question, though:

    How can we distinguish these networks, or these “invisible scrips” from culture? Are they just another way of describing how culture- be it national, organizational, or family-level – impact our behaviors? (And in seeing their formation, are we merely witnessing the beginnings of a culture?)

    And as a follow up, does this not smack of environmental determinism to you?

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