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Can you dig it?

25Sep08

Bekah Baugh, Rebecca Harvey, and F. John Rickert talk about the counterculture Digger community in the Haight-Ashbury District of San Francisco. The Diggers developed a powerful critique of society by such devices as the Free Store idea, guerrilla theater, and lots of psychedelic drugs. The paradox -- they find -- is that socialization is necessary, but it can also be a brainwashing activity.

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Cody Wilson and Lauren Knetzer discuss Sudhir Venkatesh's Gang Leader for a Day. Is Venkatesh propagating a falsely romantic view of gang life? Are gang members potential dons in a vast hierarchy of power? Or are they mostly just disorganized punks and small-time businessmen?

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We tend to think of community as the fuzzy, friendly altruism of neighbors – or perhaps as the dead weight of traditions and folkways. But all around us people engage in weird roleplay that determines our social universals. Much of it passes as normal conduct. Gangs may be outside the law, but they’re far from anarchic; to their members, they function as support group, school, and justice system all in one. When a group of men (or women) withdraw from society to live out their lives in solitary, maybe even silent, devotion to God, there are powerful motivations and consequences for that choice. And online, millions participate in forms of community, with similarities to and differences from meatspace communities that we are only beginning to appreciate. Come join us for a wide-ranging, intensely collaborative, highly experimental exploration of these and other strange communities – and maybe the formation of one of our own! This course is team-taught by Rick Scott, Donna Bowman, and Phil Frana.

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