How to write a polemic on social change

  1. Distil your thesis down to one word. It should either be an adjective which you wish to imbue with new deeper meaning like “Free”, or a neologism (maybe even a portmanteau) like “crowdsourcing”. 
  2. Open your book with an account of an ordinary person who dared to think differently. They represent the epitome of your thesis. 
  3. Tell the reader why Brand X is failing to understand Thing Y and why they are doomed, then why Person A is doing Thing Y and that is good.
  4. Repeat step three at least six times. 
  5. One case study should seem to be really out there and edgy, but fundamentally come down to how amazing Thing Y is. 
  6. The word which sums up your thesis should appear at the end of each paragraph of the book e.g. “And that is because Person A understands the power of Thing Y.” 
  7. When referring back to “Thing Y” the emphasis of your sentence should be on Thing Y. Basically you need to use meter, alliteration, punctuation – any grammar or syntax that stresses Thing Y. This is underlining for clever people. 
  8. Try to get an endorsement for the book’s dust jacket from Clay Shirky or Chris Anderson. Citing them in your book a lot might help to achieve this. 
  9. At some point mention the Ancient Greeks. They totally got Thing Y, so why did we forget about? 
  10. When your polemic comes out in paperback, write “a new afterword by the author” which crowbars a current global event into your thesis, e.g. “In February 2011 Egypt was gripped by massive civil unrest. It’s just the latest example of a world where Thing Y matters.”


By Jon Hickman

Hi, I'm Jon. I teach and research digital culture, social media and new media practice at Birmingham City University. Find out more about me with this lovely CV: Find out about my work at the Birmingham Centre for Media & Cultural Research: