Ray Brescia

 

On his book The Future of Change: How Technology Shapes Social Revolutions

Cover Interview of February 10, 2021

A close-up

I hope readers would start with the first few pages of the book. In the introduction, I recount the story of how the American Legion advocated for passage of the GI Bill, which promoted a program of wide-ranging and generous benefits for those who served in the U.S. military during WWII. The campaign included all of the components of what I describe in the book as the social change matrix: a formula for bringing about progressive social change.

Those components include what I call Medium, Network, and Message. The first of these, Medium, involves the use of contemporary communications technologies. The book goes into case after case of successful social movements utilizing the most modern means of communications available to them to advance positive social change. But many successful social movements that I highlight in the book also utilized these other two components of the social change matrix.

The second component, the Network represents the development of the type of trans-local network I have described here. These are groups that have a local base where individual members can meet and confer on a face-to-face basis, but those local nodes are connected to a broader initiative, one that has regional, state, and national reach.

Finally, the last component, Message, reflects the fact that most of these successful social movements have promoted a positive, inclusive message that stresses shared humanity and shared destiny and is often designed to combat inequality in some form, from racial inequality to inequality based on gender or sexual orientation or gender expression. It is here that we see the notion of interest convergence coming into play: groups that embrace a broad, inclusive message are likely to uncover the potential for overlapping interests among different groups.

Even if those interests are not identical, they can converge, and that convergence of interests often invites diverse groups to strive toward a similar goal. And when this occurs, interest convergence can often lead to powerful coalition building. In the story of the passage of the GI Bill, which I return to throughout the work, we can see these different elements of this social change matrix all at play.