The Day Rosa Parks Went Viral

Anna Hentschel + Invisible Playground Screen Shot 2018-11-06 at 8.02.41 PM

As I have continued making my way through Charles Duhigg’s excellent book The Power of Habit, I happened upon a very interesting anecdote about Rosa Parks.

Most of us have heard that name and one specific story about the woman that is taught to us in our history books which is that she did not get up when asked to by a white passenger and was eventually arrested.


What most people don’t know about is that she was not the first in history (or even that week) to do this.

So why is she in the history books?

Her story was the first to go viral.

Many people consider that it was technology that introduced this idea of going viral and that messages only spread like wildfire through social networks, but it’s important to remember that social networks have been and always will be human networks first.

Unless of course, those Atlas robots enslave us, then maybe not so much.

But I digress,

The little anecdote that I found in the book highlighted the fact that Rosa Parks was actually a connector.

She knew people from all walks of life and was a thoughtful giver who volunteered at churches, helped mend dresses for influential lawyers, helped the poor, etc.

So when she was arrested, the news spread like wildfire and helped start a major movement.

Which brings me to a very important lesson about what makes a message shareable that you can apply to practically anything you’re working on right now.

A message needs a network to travel through and the more diverse the network, the faster it will travel.

So it’s not enough to have a “great idea”

You need people who can spread it and help get it into the ears of others outside of your circle.

This is something I have been studying quite a bit recently and it’s just one of the factors in creating a Referable Brand.

Here is the lesson at play here. And this is very important to consider in a time when many people’s rights are on the line.

If you want your activism to be more than a march or changing your profile picture on the Book Of Faces, then you cannot ignore the channels through which your message will travel.

If you rely on a network that isn’t diverse and doesn’t have a lot of influence you might create a moment.

But you won’t create a MOVEMENT.

If you take the time to consider the message AND the network it will spread through you might change the course of history.

Up to you.


About the Artwork

Walkshop: Displaced Wellbeing with Artist Anna Hentschel + Invisible Playgrounds, in Cooperation with The Walk Discourse is being held Saturday, December 15, 2-4pm in conjunction with ‘re:home.’

The Walkshop ‘Displaced Wellbeing,’ will look at methodologies that allow participants to learn how to make yourself at home in public space. How can one develop opportunities for wellbeing in unknown contexts? Participants will train in space exploration and interaction techniques of appropriation that give chance to rework and take ownership of places in a soft way. Techniques of this workshop were conceived for Island of Good Life, a four-day festival for migration and wellbeing in Bochum/Germany in 2017 directed by Kerem Halbrecht, Anna Hentschel and Sebastian Quack. Anna Hentschel is an urban scenographer working in the fields of cultural city development and site-specific art. She is a core member of the interdisciplinary game design network Invisible Playground, and has developed formats ranging from city-wide games, to intimate social situations.

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