Rusesabagina and Network Externality

We walked two blocks over to the Westcott Movie House last evening to catch
an 8 p.m. showing of
Hotel Rwanda

The Westcott is a single-show, old-style theater with only mildly graded seating
so part of the view includes half-head silhouettes from the people one row up.
Westcott picks up a few arts-cinema runs, shows them once each weekday and twice
on weekends. 

Hotel Rwanda is full of events and scenarios suited to our developing
vocabulary of networkacy, especially related to crisis and adaptation. 
I’ll keep it brief, considering that some folks probably haven’t seen the film. 
Because it’s based on the Hutu-Tutsi clashes in Rwanda during the early ’90s,
the tragic premise of mass genocide is, perhaps, familiar enough for these
connections to seem plausible.

Very much a connector, Paul Rusesabagina–the lead character played by Don
Cheadle–navigates a series of variously constituted networks–from failed
communications channels to unconvinced or indifferent international political
structures and their agents.  So while I don’t want to reduce network
theory to a simple device for analysis and critique, I was struck–throughout
the film–by the application of many of the notions Watts works through in
Six Degrees
. In one scene, for example, Rusesabagina urges the refugees to
exercise their connections, shame their ties (weak or strong) into
action. What of it? Enough visas to help some of the families. I wonder if we
could call this some sort of rhetorical externality, a slight variation on
information externalities (211).  I guess this could be read as a grand
leap, so I only want to suggest one other connection. Watts says, "From a
scientific point of view, therefore, if we want to understand what might happen
in the future, it is critical to consider not only what happened but also what
could have happened" (245, emphasis in original). In terms of Hotel
and the complexity of networked roles moderated by Rusesabagina, we
might agree that just one of the compelling dimensions of network studies
involves sorting through the "could have happened" questions.  And
it reminds me, too, of Milgram’s research on agency in "dispensing brutality"
(131), which, through his

Obedience to Authority
research, sought to come to terms with
Adolph Eichmann’s
part in genocidal crimes.

Cross-posted to Network(ed) Rhetorics.