Documents of controversial times

I’m speaking today at Stanford Medicine X about what I’ve learned exploring the intersection between the Maker movement and health care (tune in at 4:25pm Pacific).

I posted a short version of my remarks on Medium, but I thought I’d post an image I was very happy to find to illustrate one theme: revolutions happen when people are connected not only to information, but also to each other. And that happens when people gain access to the means of production and distribution, as we saw in 1776, when Thomas Paine’s pamphlet, Common Sense, helped spark the American revolt against British rule.

Common Sense, a pamphlet by Thomas Paine (1776)

Common Sense, a pamphlet by Thomas Paine (1776)

Pamphlets can be printed cheaply, quickly, and in huge numbers. They can be transported in bulk and distributed to a wide audience. My favorite description of pamphlets is that they are “documents of controversial times.”

Here’s my question: What is the equivalent today? What are the means of production and distribution that are connecting people with information and with each other? Twitter, blogs — what else?

5 thoughts on “Documents of controversial times

  1. Great question. I agree with your choice of Twitter and Tweet Chats of course. I would include platforms that allow patients to share information and get support ( Smart Patients, Inspire , Cure Forward for example) . Each individual can then create and improve their health care experience.

  2. Great question. All good social media. Twitter and blons and attending events remotely as well as in person, plus connecting with likeminded souls through Facebook groups. There is a growing cornucopia of such groups focused on policy discussions in healthcare (Paying Till it Hurts), and on health conditions by gene variants, by harm from medical and dental devices, on heavy metals, fungi yeasts and mold, Lyme and coinfections, etc. LinkedIn also gathers people and ideas on professional topics.

  3. Yes, yes, yes to “means of production.” See Doc Tom’s revolution triangle slides from 1995(!), in which health-and-care is turned on its head by the information revolution.

    Having watched this now for 8 years, I have a new view of such things, tracing back to Gutenberg of course, and forward to now and beyond.

    The underlying technical / functional issue here is liquidity of the flow of information and ideas. Pamphlets let new ideas spread, to the point where I’d say pamphlets enable the creation (or emergence) of controversial times. (My #HCLDR tweetchat next Tuesday is about emergence.)

    But I’ll also point out that pamphlets are “idea-spread 1.0” – read-only. What we’re doing right here is idea-spread 2.0: a read-write movement, in which we get to talk back … to change what’s been drafted on the whiteboard.

    For several years I’ve increasingly felt the e-patient movement is reaching the stage where there’s going to be open controversy, as always happens when a movement gets traction: “You’re doing it wrong!” “You’re too radical!” “You’re not radical enough!” “That was MY idea!” “I thought of it first!” etc. In my lifetime we’ve seen it in the civil rights movement and the women’s movement.

    When people disagree about priorities and issues, it means each has internalized the ideas (the ideas have become part of who they are), and inevitably different points of view emerge. This gets rough sometimes but it’s necessary and a sign of real progress.

    Controversial times indeed. New implications from emerging ideas.

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