Monday, July 17, 2006

The next future

What a lot of us (notably VCs and typically, only the most informed Web 2.0ers) are attempting these days is to look ahead to the future of the current information culture.

Already our technological capabilities have created a world in which ubiquitous connectivity is, or is becoming, a reality, even for emerging countries which, for example supply village to village connectivity via a WiFi-enabled motorcycle that drives through the Cambodian countryside.

And with ubiquitous connectivity comes the effect of pervasive proximity.

Our experience of reality – literally what we feel – is changing. We touch and are touched in ways that transcend the apparent visual barrier between the cyber and the physical worlds.

It is a only a misconception, and soon-to-be artifact, that the screen represents a DMZ between reality from non-reality. When measured information exchanges, it is clear that this interface is quickly vanishing.

Experience effected through the processes of pervasive proximity means that what we feel online – those whom we touch and those who touch us – is quite real, despite its lack of physicality and materiality. What this means is that under conditions of pervasive proximity, experience transcends our traditional conception of media boundaries. And it is through transmedial experiences that we can begin to observe the emergence of a culture for the global village.

The dominant technology of the previous era was the book and the printed word. Among the memes that came along with the book were the acceleration, intensification, and reinforcement of vernacular languages, and with that the distinct cultural separations that created 'the other side of the story'.

Along with the book came the development of the individual mind that could not exist without reading; the whole concept of the individual and the public as distinct entities, the notion of privacy, secrecy, guilt, superiority, class systems and shame.

Among the creative classes, the book created the author (and, some say, even authority), it created the artist and the composer – and it also created the audience, again as a distinct and separate entity.

And with that dominant technology, it was always the case that the “text” – the words, the art, the music – could be removed from both its creator and its creative context.

The content creator is always engaged in writing a detailed history of the future because s/he is one of the few that were aware of the present. But remember that the creator is a distinct entity from her or his audience or consumer. Today, we are no longer merely consumers of culture. We are instead – all of us – producers of our indicative cultural creations that exist for as long as we are experiencing them — and no longer.

The hallmarks of of this new playground for creativity (one that we are only beginning to recognize) include collaborative creation, transmediality and the elimination of the interfaces – the stark demarcations – between the physical and virtual worlds.

Such a conception almost evokes aspects of magic and mysticism - the image of the tribal shaman who acts as a medium between the visible and invisible worlds, practicing forms of magic that exert control over what otherwise appear as natural events.

The ability for everyone to actively engage and participate in creation and reflexive consumption of culture is paramount. This, however, flies directly in the face of cultural cartels in whose interest it is to maintain a monopoly on production and distribution of information and who therefore seek to control the means of creation, connection, and collaboration.

Therein lies the role of governments, conventions, treaties and summits: to actively resist partisan commercial interests in order to protect and nurture the subtle beginnings of the next cultural epoch, the beginnings of which we are privileged not only to witness, but privileged as well to actively participate as its midwives.

Since we are all creators, creativity – and the means to express and experience creativity – belongs to everyone, collectively as a public trust.

It's not about the technology - it's about how this technology is modifying individual and collective behavior.


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