The Sociology of Escalation Effects

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about escalation effects, by which I mean the tendency of some courses of action to escalate beyond our initial expectations or capacity to control. My favourite examples involve information overload. An active reader will often follow up references from books they are reading, with an interesting book usually yielding at least a few more books to read. Thus reading one book will lead to a desire to read a cluster of books, each of which will in turn likely prompt a similar escalation in your intended reading. Escalation effects are interesting because they exist in an ontological gray zone, reflecting our capacities as agents while underscoring our limitations. They are not strictly speaking structural constraints, as much as they are unintended consequences of reflexive project formation.

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