Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Elizabeth Gaskell and Cybersociology

This post by boingboing is a treat! Not only does it presuppose the existence of cybersociology, but it also takes for granted that evolution is applicable to human society. It quotes the description for a lecture course set up to explore the nature of cooperation. And this description reminded me of a passage in Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell. Miss Matty is impoverished through no fault of her own and starts selling tea to eke out her living:
Miss Matty, as I ought to have mentioned before, had had some scruples of conscience at selling tea when there was already Mr Johnson in the town, who included it among his numerous commodities; and, before she could quite reconcile herself to the adoption of her new business, she had trotted down to his shop, unknown to me, to tell him of the project that was entertained, and to inquire if it was likely to injure his business. My father called this idea of hers "great nonsense," and "wondered how tradespeople were to get on if there was to be a continual consulting of each other's interests, which would put a stop to all competition directly." And, perhaps, it would not have done in Drumble [Manchester], but in Cranford it answered very well; for not only did Mr Johnson kindly put at rest all Miss Matty's scruples and fear of injuring his business, but I have reason to know he repeatedly sent customers to her, saying that the teas he kept were of a common kind, but that Miss Jenkyns had all the choice sorts.
(quoted from the Gutenberg e-text)
So open source programming and the WikiPedia show us that Cranford is not quite as utopian as we used to think. How very very comforting.

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Aron said...
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