Some additional thoughts after my last blog post.
I was going to write this, but plain forgot. This one is connected to visibility, and is very relevant for cultural production.
- Do you have friends who can tell people how awesome you are?
- Do you have high-status people who can help you gain visibility?
The flashlight metaphor
I tend to think of status like this: Every member of a community has a little flashlight – something they can use to shine on themselves or others, to direct attention.
- The higher your status, the stronger your flashlight – if you’re a high-status individual, people will look at the things you point at.
- The better you’re connected, the more friends you have that can shine their flashlights on you.
- A group of friends who keep shining on each other will get a lot of attention, and a lot of people will get jealous or angry that they’re hogging the spotlight.
- If you’re not connected at all, you’ll have to shine on yourself to get attention, and that can backfire, because it makes you look selfish.
- When you’re in the light, you better have something to show, because otherwise people will be less inclined to point at you the next time you get your chance.
- The light you receive is not directly connected to the quality of your work or person. You can be great and stand there in the dark, because nobody’s heard of you and you don’t have any friends in this community.
- Light hangs around for a bit, and then fades away.
3 thoughts on “Follow-up to “Status in small communities””
A couple of comments:
1) I think you’re mixing status itself (i.e. the subjective impression of such in the heads of everyone else) and its causes (e.g. being well-dressed, doing the right thing in terms of community ideals). You do some of the causes (e.g. you support the community, or you fight community-approved fights and win fairly), you have some of the causes (e.g. you look good, sound confident, live in the right city) and together those give you status, which you can then use as described. Not sure this is a massive problem but separating the two more clearly might be beneficial.
2) Flashlight metaphor breaks down because high-status people are basically absorbing the light (with the option to redirect, via their own flashlight).
I mostly agree with both posts, but I feel that many categories you selected can be summed up by simply “how dedicated to the community you are / how much time are you willing to spend engaging in the community related activities”. It leads to the situation when very valuable members of the community have a fairly low status just because they do not spend as much time socializing.
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