A few notes on Mike Wesch’s article “1991: Who we were and who we need to be”. [1. Wesch, M. (2011). 1991: Who we were and Who we need to be. Retrieved August 10, 2011, from http://mediatedcultures.net/ksudigg/?p=317]
It pulls the interesting trick of looking back before the present era and finding that many of the concerns people were expressing then were the same as those we have now: young people disengaged with education, having short attention spans, being constantly called into ‘incoherence’ or other social domains by the omnipresence of technology (TV, telephones), education being run on an industrial model for an information age, identity being no longer a social given but the core project of the individual and the individual itself being increasingly set apart from communities.
Wesch could have gone back 50 years or 100 years and found many of these themes: the spur to the fathers of modern sociology was in to explore social change characterised by: alienation, atomism, the place of the individual in mass society, technology defining activities, social relations being obscured.
The Industrial Age is joining the pre-Industrial Age in holding the certainties and securities, the connectedness that we feel we feel we lack now. I wonder to what extent Wesch describes the Human Condition, particularly that of the academic for whom big questions are particularly enticing.
Technology does not define relationships and social processes, but offers affordances to directions that already there. And these directions don’t always run the same way – the picture is complex. We see the Internet also being used to connect people; it facilitates previously existing social forms of thinking and behaving that required you to leave your home and maybe go to a big city. The personal commitment required to join such processes is reduced slightly (it was always possible to buy a book and wear a t-shirt after all), but the connections to other people, though superficial and ephemeral for most are far easier to establish. Twitter exemplifies this. Ultimately what matters will be what lasts, for us as individuals and for the world at large, what is difficult is to know what this will be. The future is unwritten. Twas ever thus.