Since the 1980s, the model of technological determinism has looked at digital platforms, social networks and online forums as veritable screwcaps driving cultural change, effectively shaping institutions, practices and ‘values’ in a manner predominantly beyond our control.
Given the recent #PRISM scandal and the riots in Brazil, Turkey and Greece, along with other areas of social unrest, levers of control seem to bastardize the ethical foundations we have built through our constitutions and have ceded a consensual rhetoric to ‘hidden forces’ that continuously push notions of unification via institutional reform, or better economies, or rosier futures, or more stable societies, etcetera, etcetera.
This goes far beyond the strong ties/weak ties debate, and into a realm of consciousness that is begging for definition and reinvention.
Make no mistake about it, there is a twisted dualism to this: We are often negligent participants in a narrative that spuriously undermines the better parts of our true selves -- the spiritual, the ethereal, the emotional, the cognitive, what have you.
So what is it about participation that is so damn elusive, an accelerant brought forth by a pixel? Why such dualism? Why engage in false dichotomies?
An even better question: What the fuck are ethics nowadays?
One dimension of this question set is the import we place on trust, a kind of assumptive risk in expecting that open online discussions will create or reinforce human bonds previously unimaginable. Institutions tend to use a false sense of trust as a mechanism for change (call it ‘social media’ or ‘social business’ if you like). In fact, they most often confuse the two.
Another dimension is the emphasis we place on things (more clinically, the ‘Internet of Things’) -- web objects and memes we fancy, propagate and cherish in a daily ritual of surface interactions and perfunctory roles within our favorite social network spaces and mobile applications. Things, unfortunately, that are largely devoid of meaning.
Another, arguably stemming from the first two, is the foregoing of critical thought for mere answers; web search is a classic example of how each of us settles for convenience rather than conviction around current events or geopolitical issues, a by-product of time (and the perception that we seriously lack it). It’s not that answers shouldn’t be sought, but rather we should be asking new questions to ourselves and to our communities when confronted, or cajoled, or even consoled, by what those answers actually mean.
There’s an interesting haut monde to observe here: We are at once living a reality (or a hyperreality as Albert Borgmann had identified it) to which subjective notions of self, other and institution blend into a sweeping collectivism, as if we are all advancing towards some element of truth that shines a light on past and future considerations of freedom, security, artistry, politik, and more generally, those aspects of life we feel that we cannot do without -- food, fuel, family, fortune, etc.
We see it in our advertising, our news stories, our movies, our children’s books. We even see it in our truer selves.
It’s as if ‘we’ are a mirror reflection of ‘me’... without a real net.
So what changes, if at all?
Perhaps nothing. Perhaps there is nothing to change, only to become.
When the proverbial ‘bottom’ drops out - and it will, in various social, economic, educational and artistic iterations - the moment will arise in which we are forced, kicking and screaming, to realize that we are all a part of something much greater than ourselves. That each of us is the whole, and as such, the fundamental components of being are interdependent in all of their glory, grittiness, as well as abject ugliness or cacophobia.
I imagine we won’t be fighting, but rather we will be settling, for ourselves. For each other.
And that scarcity, separation and individualism - attributes we have been programmed to accept as truth, right, wrong or indifferent - will provide tensions for growth, not abolitions of self-sacrifice or empathy. So goes the beauty of interdependence.
And with all that, let’s not forget what holds the universe together: Love.
By now you might conclude, in an open ended way no less, that this is not really about technology or its dalliances with human discourse. Rather, this is about mythology. And it is myth which presupposes and realigns the ascensions toward what love means in a world that cannot seem to find its feet. Not yet at least.
Economics as a moral exercise...
Science as a fiercely experimental realm...
Education as an act of empathic creation...
Politics as a set of emergent yet reformable juxtapositions...
Religion facing a formidable reset...
Sexuality as expressions of inner and outer consciousness...
…Life as a force to be reckoned with. To be respected. To be loved. To be understood.
As for our commitment to a higher realm, perhaps we can look at it through a perspective offered by one of Borgmann's colleagues:
Firmness, balance and steadiness. Foreign to us as competitive beings, yet innate to us as our Greater Selves. If technology wants to help in this evolution, wonderful. If it can’t, that’s fine as well. Maybe technology isn’t what we think it is.
For now, we can manage the false truths associated with myth and circumstance, because it is our calling. Let’s preserve our right to find meaning, and to live freely as spiritual beings.
A unified future awaits us. How we write the script is entirely up to us.