October 11, 2005


Following an interesting IM conversation with FullTP in the morning, who has come out partially out of his blog hiatus, I found myself talking about about my pet peeve -- dissent and other disruptions in systems -- once again. The trigger, predictably, was the IIPM controversy, which I won't blog about since I've been arguing about it with almost everyone and everywhere (IM, blogs, face-to-face) since morning. So, coming back to the peeve, the question is whether dissent actually achieves anything substantial or if it is a feature of the system to let the users let off some steam?

This line of thought came into being some two years back while arguing with my COO on the impact and usefulness of public blogs, which anyone and everyone was launching in those days. I remember telling him at that time that for most of the community-oriented blogs, the key factor to their existence/popularity is the dissenting factor, the idea of being against something all the time and how it has been commodotised -- like how denims, once a symbol of rebellion, has now been assimilated even into corporate culture. Dissent is no longer an anomaly, it is a feature and a useful one at that.

Even in designing systems for the real world, the focus has shifted from set ups that are designed to not to fail, to systems that fail gracefully, after adapting to the glitch in its stride, assimilating it back into itself. Dissent is one such glitch that has been gradually factored into our systems. There are now proper corners marked out for dissenters, where they can make all the din they want to make and once they hit a critical mass, the system ensures that they are susceptible to the same problems that plague the others, rolling them back into the mainstream fold before they even realise it.

That elusive realisation is where the system works its magic. Most of the dissenters think they are going against the system, setting a new order in place, while all they are doing is taking yet another channel that is made available by the system. In fact, it is debatable whether it is the dissenter or the believer who is more delusional. The question then arises whether there is any way of dissenting or stepping out of line that is not accounted for by the system. I would like to believe that you can work against it from the inside, then again, who knows, it might also be yet another channel. Strange, no?