This is the kick off of what might become a series of postings. At Reboot 10 last June in Copenhagen, I talked about how to reflect on the impact of mobile communications and internet as new infrastructures on our societies. In my presentation (video available, embedded above), I talked about how infrastructures in the past 2 centuries had wide and deep impact on a lot of aspects of our understanding of ourselves and the world around us. Which turns into the question how the two newest infrastructures we built will impact us.
Especially as these two new infrastructures are qualitatively very different from previous infrastructures: they not just reduce distance in time and distance, they make it zero. And on top of that, the end point is not geographically defined. Instead you yourself are the end point of it, or rather, you carry the end point around in your pocket. I used to need to know where you were to be able to call you, my mail was sent to a geographic address. Now you are your own address and I usually have no clue where my call or e-mail will reach you, nor do I really care.
What will this mean for our understanding of the world? Any lasting impact of the introduction of technology means that the definition of our cultural categories will change (there are three other typical answers to technology that I regard as temporary. See Monster theory). Our notion of what constitutes work, freedom, transparancy, privacy, mobility, friendship etc. will be shaped, and will shift, in response to the affordances, effects and changes induced by new technology.
A classic example would be how railroads changed our perception of time. Because of railroads and train schedules standardized times and timezones became a necessity, where before each town defined its own time and rhythm of the day. (The town I grew up in was about 20 mins ahead of the capital 150km away before being connected to the railroad. A national standard time was adopted in 1909, before that only towns connected to the railroad and dilligence network used synchronized time).
Last week at SHiFT08 I used the time slot in the programme allotted to me to have a conversation with the participants of the changes in their own lives mobile communications and internet already had caused, and how their understanding of themselves and their world had changed. Where my talk at Reboot 10 was more asking questions on a theoretical level, this session was about the implications at the practical and personal level. We talked about things like being always reachable by your manager, work – life distinction, regarding colleagues half a world away as ‘close’, being able to work as self-employed or not, and the number of clients you can help out at the same time. (If you read Portuguese see e.g. this blogposting ‘Help I’m shifting‘ by Jose da Silva who participated in the conversation)
In coming blogpostings I intend to reflect on different cultural categories and how they may have changed in my own perception, and what kind of examples of change I see happening around me.
Postings in this series thusfar
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