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  • benjaminnewman01

Mod. 1.2 - Identifying the Forces of Change

Attempt a preliminary sketch of your impressions of what is changing in the world (big picture), and the forces/dynamics behind them. You will refine this list next week, so treat this as an early draft to get you thinking.

  • Think of what is changing with reference to both parts of the course title, “working together” and “better futures for all”

  • What shifts are you seeing in how people collaborate and/or how they define or think of success / happiness / better futures for all?

 

I’d like to approach defining “working together” through the lens of history and industry. I think two of the most recognizable examples of humans working together are architectural projects that required multi-generational commitment and labor such as cathedrals or the Great Wall of China that took decades if not centuries to complete, and wars fought by armies of thousands representing powerful authoritarian figures. In both cases, large groups of people were united under common cause to give their lives for the sake of a perceived higher purpose. Both groups became models for the emerging labor force and culture that was a result of the industrial revolution. Remnants of both groups can still be seen through the vestiges of shared purpose uniting people to work together and through discipline and loyalty to an authority as a result of training originating from military practice. Fast forward approximately 100 years and one finds an abundance of resources contributing to massive global population growth, a general sense of prosperity fueled by higher quality of life as a result of the constant drive of commerce and a seemingly endless landscape of future possibility.


The information age is ushered in through the integration and proliferation of the internet into every facet of human life and like all emerging technologies, it both fuels innovation and creativity, and creates new opportunities for authorities to amass huge amounts of power. The result of that technology creates a web of disconnected networks with huge amounts of data and information sharing that result (whether by design or not) in the creation of new tribes of people based on their individual beliefs, interests, politics and preferences. How these new groups “work together” or not is still an ongoing experiment and new metrics have emerged that allow social scientists to analyze and understand human behavior in ways never before seen.


For example, online gaming has become a world-wide phenomenon, a multi-billion dollar industry, and a source of seemingly endless entertainment and habit for millions of people around the world. Networked platforms such as Twitch and Discord have become enormous hubs for the masses to gather and engage with each other through gaming. Twitter was originally designed, and to some extent still functions, as a network by which various experts and journalists could become aware of and rapidly share news as it unfolds. These new digital communities, often experienced in isolation, have begun to replace traditional gathering places such as town halls, places of worship, and local festivals and celebrations, that historically operated as the connective link between neighbors.


Where the differences in these experiences are most apparent are among the different generations. Baby Boomers, Gen X’ers, Millennials, and Gen-Z have all been targeted and/or adapted to these new technologies and platforms in myriad ways creating new shared experiences for some, and stark separation for others. Apply all of these elements to the intergenerational workplace and you have a perfect recipe for the longstanding practices of working together by uniting under common cause and the shared experience of job training falling by the wayside in favor of generationally curated and individually focused experiences that reinforce existing generational differences and subsequent impressions of their identities and values. How the digital and IRL communities come together to create new ways of “working together” I believe is still unclear and continuing to emerge.


Defining “better futures for all” requires, I believe, a similar but different approach. While “working together” has certainly created large amounts of prosperity and opportunity for millions around the world in the last century, the notion that every person has a role and responsibility in creating a “better future for all” is still very new. As distrust in governmental and corporate institutions grows, the influence and power of traditional hierarchical authorities begins to wane. In the search for a new form of authority or common cause under which to unite, the byproduct of ambiguity emerges as an agent of chaos and confusion in our current time. Some elements of the old guard still continue to govern, but new influences (or perhaps influencers) have also begun to appear.


While traditional markets such as investing, finance, and real estate continue in much of the same way they always have, innovative disruptors have begun to improve upon the stale nature of many industries that became complacent in the marketplace due to their prosperity and lack of competition. Those disruptors have harnessed the power of technology in their respective markets and created new barometers of success and happiness defined in part by an appearance of status or wealth, as displayed on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram. One look at the millions of 20-somethings posting selfies with a White Claw beverage in hand with the hashtag #SummerOfClaw or #WhiteClawWasted and one can see how influential trends can catch on like wildfire in a matter of minutes and hours. While these posts are meant to model what “happiness” and “success” look like in our current era, their blatant self-centeredness, curation of self as brand, and unquenchable narcissism fails to consider how their posts might influence the idea of a “better future for all”.


It could be argued that the digital world mimics the real one through the lens of traditional tropes of high school groupings. The jocks and cheerleaders are today’s social media influencers, while the geeks and nerds spend less time focusing on how to become like the influencers, and more time bonding over shared interests in their hobbies, music, science and technology. While each group has their own practices for uplifting and supporting each other, ultimately the division among the groups remains intact and the idea of a “better future for all” remains a corny joke proffered by the lonely teacher wearing a bowtie and desperately trying to connect with the students.

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