As a way of thinking, few things may have changed society as much, as quickly or as thoroughly as modern technology. The theme of Web has looked at ways it’s shifting our connections with reality, awareness of personal or environmental consequences, and understanding of collective systems we exist within.
Yet those things also serve social functions: our sense of what our choices mean, their impacts, and how they reshape the essential structures we’re thereby upholding. In many ways, we’re talking about patterns of behaviour, belief and shared values that actively sustain human society.
And, of course, such change isn’t completely unjustified as society wasn’t perfect before all this. Life was slower, processes more cumbersome, communities smaller, freedom to travel or connect quite constricted, and ideas often limiting and tightly controlled. By comparison, life now is much more open and dynamic; offering countless opportunities to take more in (see Notes One).
But I do wonder to what extent we’re running risks by allowing the tool to become the master, by letting this way of thinking define our lives and social existence. After all, technology exists to make things easier by doing some of the work for us. Shortcuts based upon a thorough understanding of life and the tasks in hand. Are we ‘helped’ if we take the shortcut but forget to fully grasp what we’re doing and why?
The right role for technology within human society is something many are grappling with, from everyday life all the way up to those few powerful people making some pretty influential decisions on our behalf. Within that, this question of what it means stand out to me as important.
We might get caught up with what’s on offer, chasing the tail of that endless wave of innovation and updates; but, taking a step back, is it something we need to engage with? I’m not saying the answer is No, but just because something’s there it doesn’t mean we have to use it or play its games.
Backtracking to the idea of social function – the sense of our engagement with life having meaning – it could be said the realities, the social or physical limitations we come up against have value in telling us what life’s about (Notes Two). This reciprocal relationship between the individual and a complex world, where we find our place within it then shape our response as part of the ongoing human conversation.
In removing limits, where are we left? How do we decide what (not) to do, or even what decisions to make? Figuring out our path, where we stand in society and our value to it wasn’t easy even in the simpler world we left behind (Notes Three). And tech now removes more boundaries that arguably once gave life definition, leaving us with boundless choice and this strong air of freedom (Notes Four).
Finding our place in that new world seems almost as challenging as formulating our response to it all, but I’m not sure where we’ll be without it.
Notes and References:
Note 1: Podcasts as models of transformation
Note 1: Blogs illustrating ways of being
Note 2: “Education’s End”
Note 2: “Response Ability” by Frank Fisher
Note 3: Modern media and complex realities
Note 3: The web and the wider world
Note 3: Complexity of life
Note 4: Pre-tech in film
Note 4: Using internet to construct community
Note 4: The potential of technology
Taking a bit of a sidestep, Thoughts on art & on life reflected on what it might mean to rediscover our bearings in modern life.