Generation I

Written By: Joel Suss

We are the information generation.

We can all readily witness the power of the internet in terms of social communication: from catalyzing the toppling of dictators in the Arab world to the Indignados movement in Spain. But it is the unprecedented flow of information which constitutes the real revolution of our time.

Never before has information been so accessible. We are hyper-connected. Our very existence is being fundamentally re-shaped, our brains literally being re-wired. Recent scientific studies show how the human brain is actually evolving before our eyes in response to information technology (see http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2011/07/13/science.1207745 to read a number of academic articles on the subject). Studies primarily demonstrate the connection between memory and the omnipresence of information, namely that we don’t need to commit anything to heart anymore since everything one wants to know is readily retrievable on the World Wide Web. What is less understood is how the information revolution is transforming our social selves.

It is the revolution of social interactions; the constitution of new spaces of assembly and new opportunities to organize. Facebook, if it were a country, would be the world’s third most populace with over 800 million citizens. On a deeper level, though, man as a social animal is evolving. The ability to connect with others far removed from one’s own specific setting, to understand how similar we all are despite differing political, religious and ethnic orientations, is the ultimate consequence of information technology.

Somewhere, Marshall McLuhan is smiling. We are experiencing the electronic implosion that he foresaw. For it is truly an implosion rather than explosion. Throughout history, as technological progress has accelerated society has fragmented in a way that is compatible with intellectual individualism–an explosion of variety and differences. As the globe is reduced to village-size, we truly have become tribal once more, returning to our ancestral roots socially speaking. Communalism is back in a big way; people are joining online communities, reinventing (or rather becoming) themselves and antiquating geographic and political boundaries.

A very interesting and engrossing read on the subject-matter is The Information by James Gleick. The book traces the history of information technology, from the language of African tribal drums to Claude Shannon, and analyzes its impact on human society. Another thoroughly interesting read is by Manuel Castells, entitled Communication Power, which demonstrates the impact of social communication in creating new spaces and opportunities for political organizing. But, perhaps the seminal work on the electronic revolution is by McLuhan who accurately predicted the internet and its evolutionary effects in the 1960’s. In fact, he revolutionized communication studies. A great book of his is Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man.

How hard is it to unplug for a day? Let alone one hour. As McLuhan has made clear, new technologies become extensions of man. They become incorporated into the very physiology of the human species, becoming in a sense another limb or organ and thereby being impossible to undo or revert back to how it was prior unless by amputation. The information age has had tremendous consequences for human society. The implications are only starting to be understood.

One Comment to “Generation I”

  1. Some really good information, Gladiola I discovered this.

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