Friday 08 Oct 2021 | 01:20 | SYDNEY
Friday 08 Oct 2021 | 01:20 | SYDNEY

Why do people hold demonstrations?


Sam Roggeveen


14 February 2011 12:25

While online social networking played a major role in the political upheaval in Tunisia and Egypt, there was still an evident need for people to gather together in a public place in order to voice their grievances and demands. Why is that'

In this animated lecture, psychologist Steven Pinker explains the important distinction between individual and mutual knowledge. Knowing that your government is corrupt is important, but may not be very consequential. On the other hand, when you are made aware that thousands of others also know that the government is corrupt, you have shared knowledge. And that has consequences...

So according to Pinker (see from 8:05), a political rally demonstrates shared knowledge — the participants are empowered by seeing that others feel the same way they do. 

The logic is compelling, but does Pinker's theory explain why people feel the need to gather together physically to voice their opinions' Social media actually solves the problem of physical isolation that Pinker refers to — even if you cannot meet with fellow protesters, you can still make create mutual knowledge by sharing information and ideas online. So what is actually achieved by holding a demonstration'

(H/t TDW.)