Gee Chapters 7, 10, 15 & 16


Please read through the summaries of the following chapters and watch the videos that coincide with them.

Chapter 7: Pitfalls along our search for status and solidarity

  • Humans have a hard time with delayed gratification, but their will can be stronger.

  • We seek out people for two different way, for status, and the other for solidarity.

    • we create status and solidarity based on the way we think, value, or behave.

  • We now have access to more information to reference to, thus making us conflicted.

    • We want to seek out the “truth” but don’t have the effort or time to do so.

  • when faced with the inability to face these complex questions we fall back on mental comfort stories.

    • These can be in the form of previous memory or through different medias

    • both can be altered to suit our needs.

  • But if there were no groups or people we aspired to be like then we would be nobody and do nothing.

  • The word ‘idiot’ comes from the greek word ‘idioets’ meaning individual

    • without others we are doomed to be stupid


Video Example:


Chapter 10: Institutions and Frozen thought

Institutions were formed by people to help “coordinate actions of lots of people to accomplish a common purpose.” Therefore institutions can be both great and horrible tools in that they are meant to “get everyone on the same page and coordinate a complex set of interacting activities toward a complex set of goals”. However they are often “frozen thought”.  Institutions often standardize processes and that “Removes a great many decisions from individuals, who usually follow along without any thought about the matters. They take them for granted as ‘natural’, when they are, in fact, conventional”.


An excellent example discussed in this chapter is the Qwerty keyboard. A “once good thought/decision/solution that is now a bad one, frozen in time”. It was originally developed to avoid keys jamming. This is no longer a concern but we “do not get rid of the Qwerty keyboard because each generation puts effort into learning it, gets used to it, and comes to see it as ‘normal’ and ‘natural’. People do not want to invest in undoing what they have learned, confront an ‘odd’ and ‘unnatural’ layout of keys and learn something new”. This attitude keeps us as humans from moving forward and developing new modes of accomplishing things.


Fortunately “enough people are starting to ask questions now that change is beginning to happen, though slowly and unevenly…digital media offers us new and better solutions to problems for which many an institution has only old frozen solutions”.


video example:

Chapter 15:  Evading Knowledge increases stupidity

  • Humans are oriented towards meaning instead of truth (Humans look for the meaning in their lives) = mental comfort

  • Humans do not like to carry around “heavy” things in their minds

  • In order to change systems, we must convince people to change or, act.  Use  evidence  and argument,  instead of comfort stories that support our self-interest to change.

  • Need to “travel” lightly.  That is,  do not carry unnecessary knowledge around with you that you have no need to use and use quickly.  Why burden your mind with useless information anymore than carrying unneeded supplies out in the wilderness?  This is reason #2 that human minds go awry. “Knowing for knowing sake is fool’s errand, we believe.”  Gee believes that we must store more knowledge than what we might need because we never know when we may use it.

Ex. of people driving Hummers  but make fuel out of corn, thus driving the price of food up in a starving world= major stupidity

Humans deal with complexity very poorly but our modern world is a high-risk, complex system which is complicated with unintended consequences from human interventions.


Chapter 16:  Fleeing Complexity

  • Humans have repeatedly tried to intervene in complex systems in the name of profit or greed and have “screwed things up” even further. Ex. Cane toad in Australia or bark beetles in the forests of Alaska, Canada and the U.S.  Human intervention disrupted a system millions of years old (one that relied on diversity, fire and beetles for renewal)

  • Humans look for the simplistic answers to very complex questions.  We need to pool different perspectives even ones that may go against our ideology and comfort stories.

  • Our public sphere is in tatters.  We are plagued by greed and divided by ideology. People are out for themselves and their families.  We fail when we work alone when we could have succeeded had we worked together.

  • Cane toad infestation National Geographic (You will watch this one in the Prezi)


1. Please view the following Prezi to review key points of the chapters.

2.  Go to Padlet Link:

and write your thoughts or choose an image that coincides with this question:

What are some issues that are frozen in your school?

3.  Please tweet your thoughts on one of the other questions that were addressed in the slides of the Prezi at: #maetel1Gchat


Thank you for your response.



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