Herded and hefted?

During the time I worked in Rotherham a great stir was made about the publication of Julian Baggini’s book Welcome to Everytown: a journey into the English mind. Baggini is a philosopher who wanted to discover what the English really think – so he spent six months in S66, “the most typical postcode area in the country.”

In a chapter on holidaymaking and package tourism comes the following:

Sheep need not be herded, they can also be hefted.  I first came across this word when I watched…The Dales Diary, which was all about rural Yorkshire life.  A heft is the unfenced area sheep learn to keep themselves within.  This was originally taught to them by shepherds, but as time goes by, they pass it on to each other and need no shepherding.  Sheep who learn this are called hefted, and in much the same way, so are people.  Their territorial boundaries are more complicated and flexible, but they too rarely stray beyond them, without a shepherd, even though there are no fences keeping them in.  Individualism is a great myth.  All that has really happened is that we have dispensed with the sheepdogs and become hefted.

If you accept Baggini’s view of individualism, does this apply in the web 2.0 world too?


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