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Responsible information cascading means benefits for all

Creative Commons License Goodbye War, Hello Peace by teru is licensed under a Attribution Noncommercial (3.0).

In this podcast, I analyze James Surowiecki’s argument that the more important the decision, the less likely an information cascade is to take place. I argue that information cascades can be used to make very important decisions if the people receiving that information or partaking in the information cascade act responsibly. Individuals cannot simply take others’ information or experiences at face value, but they must analyze that information and form their own understanding of the information. By always balancing others’ information with one’s own understanding, negative information cascades can be prevented and information cascades can be a useful tools people use to make many important decisions. I also connect this idea to Rivers’ analysis of rhetoric and how we must be active consumers and participants in rhetorical communication as opposed to passive recipients.

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  1. October 20, 2011 at 12:13 PM

    Katie, I really enjoyed listening to your podcast. You examined Surowiecki’s argument very thoroughly, and I think that your critical analysis was insightful.

    I agree that it does seem detrimental if people abandon their own personal thoughts in favor of what other people are doing. That could potentially result in harmful consequences for everyone. We shouldn’t trust what one or even a few individuals or experts say we should do unless we critically examine their proposed thoughts/beliefs/actions. I agree that no matter what, an information cascade is negative if people don’t do this. This would make us out to be passive as opposed to active, and you addressed these concerns in your podcast. When information cascades are positive though, I believe that they can be an extremely effective way for us to make and implement decisions. When we take an active role in the decision making process, I think that we are likely to be more satisfied and invested in the results. I found the example you gave about the farmers to be particularly helpful in my understanding of information cascades. Just as there is the potential for negative consequences when we follow a weak defense of rhetoric, this potential also exists if we do not actively participate in the information cascade. By taking the same approach to information cascades that we do to the strong defense of rhetoric, we can make, hopefully, better decisions.

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