The digital revolution involve you
We are in the midst of a revolution. Surely there are no digital armies, not riots on the streets, people shouting “Digital – digital- digital now!”
There isn’t a digital bloodshed nor any ‘analogue heads’ chopped off. Nevertheless it’s a revolution going on, and it’s affecting us all in fundamentally ways.
I’m not sure what started it, maybe the introduction of the Internet is a starting point, and maybe it isn’t? In any event, the ways we use Internet have changed the basics of how we publicly communicate, conduct business and relationships with friends and our communities. It’s changed the definition of what a ‘public‘ is.
We used to have systems and technologies of: One – to one communications (like a letter or a telephone conversation) and we used to have one-to many communications (like the radio and newspapers).
The Internet represents a continuous communication between the masses and at the same time all the communication forms mentioned above. It influences all aspects of society: Politics, commerce, media, warfare and even the private sphere.
What is going on?
We are discussing all kinds of topics at the same time, and it becomes a myriad where it is difficult to apart the subjects. Some subjects are interwoven; some subjects are wrongly mixed together and are just creating confusion. We are discussing changes of the democracy (for those nations having that established) changes of how to conduct business, changes in the medias and even changes in the way our minds function.
There is no consensus if this is good or bad. Not really. Some are arguing that our capitalistic system is breaking down, and there is a need of a new one. Some uses the opportunity to crave for stronger control over the population and the digital flow of information. Some celebrate it and call it liberation, a kind of anarchism that will “save” us. Whom to believe?
Other questions are: Will this ever end? How long does it take until the dust settles? What’s next? Some says that they have all the answers, others that there are none. Its surely an exciting time to live in. All rules seems to be rewritten, or are they?
- No civilization has been there since the beginning of time.
- No civilization has stayed static.
- Every revolution (from the Latin Revolutio, “a turnaround” is a fundamental change in power or organizational structures that takes place in a relatively short period of time…” – Wikipedia) alter what was before, with an uncertain future while being in the midst of it.
- The basic behavioral patterns in humans changes very slowly.
- People are highly adaptive to change in living conditions.
This means that, as humans, we have been exposed to change at all times. We adapt very well to changes in the surrounding circumstances and we keep some very typical behavioral patterns, such as being social and relational, striving for a safe life and a mind expanding lifestyle where cultural activities keep being some fundamentals we haven’t “given up”
The way we organize work, provide and exchange values (goods, services) may change in structure, but we will still need each other to make everything we need, wish for and desire.
In a digital business the most obvious up till now is exactly this: Shared value chains, shared services, split revenue sharing. The way digital economics works is based on very old ideas: “The market place”(e.g. Kelkoo) “Community sales” (e.g. home parties like Tupperware, musicnodes.no ) one of the most effective marketing techniques are Direct mailing and social spread of opinions (word of mouth, rating)
How to organize work? Well the industrialism didn’t last very long, did it? We got that system in the 18th to the 19th century and it may take some years yet, but if you ask a blue collar worker in the western hemisphere (a shipyard worker in Norway, an automaker in the USA) you will be told loud and clearly that it’s going downhill. We don’t need the factory bells anymore, and we don’t need to clock- in anymore. Nowadays lots of us have’ mobile office’, and a cell phone where customers call, mail, Skype us at all times. Another reality; our clients might be in any time zones around the world. It’s not only consultants and ‘men in business suits’, it might as well be artists, poets, dancers, small family businesses and farmers. Does this resemble the way work was organized before the industrial revolution?
Never before have so many been able to consume, and take part in producing so much content. We read, watch, listen to all kinds of content, and to an extent that nobody could predict only 100 years ago. It’s said that an average teen, nowadays have more knowledge than Isaac Newton. The teen nowadays might not be as curious, but still. The institutional structures are falling, and we do not know the outcome. Gutenberg never anticipated the outcome of the print press either.
But there is no need to be naive and to think that finally “the power came to the people”. The propaganda machinery in China, North Korea, Iran, USA and also Norway has an easy match these days. I’m not talking about the governments and military only. Corporations, criminals and political groups also know how to manipulate, and they do.
The private sphere
Kevin Kelly has said it better than anyone. He said something like that the Internet is not something out there, it’s surrounding us, it’s everywhere, it’s in everything. That makes our former idea of private and public irrelevant. At the moment we are confused by what role we have at work, and when we are private. We are concerned about privacy, and that government shouldn’t be able to conduct mass surveillance. At the same time we are freely giving out the most personal information to a wide range of Internet offerings, like Google, facebook, Amazon, YouTube and iTunes to name a few. We gladly provide information on our name, gender, age, civil status, hobbies, purchases and locations. I don’t think this is necessarily bad for us, but there is no, or very little control mechanisms in place. The best example of how to make sense is to look to Visa. Visa has established a promise toward us. -They keep the secrecy about our credit card usage, and take responsibility to prevent us from fraud. They exclude businesses trying to cheat us, or misuse credit card information they have. They have built a trusted relationship with all parties involved to let business on Internet happen.
The digital revolution is like a wave at the ocean, you cannot stop the movement once started, but you can find ways to ride the wave. Some people react at change with fear, and become insecure. Some people let their arms fall down passively and let the changes happen, feeling out of control. None of them will influence and participate in creating how the future will evolve.
I believe that every action taken now, by each and every one of us, will influence how the future will look like. If we embrace large global corporations uncritical, they will surely set the rules of the game. If we let governments grasp the opportunity to take control over our lives, they will – all over the world, whatever they call it. But if we, each one of us discuss, take part in our way, locally, by our blogs, our statements on facebook or twitter. If we address corporations and tell them how we want them to act, in order to conduct relational business with them, if we persistently demand our politicians to act on our behalf to protect the democratic ideas and demand that ethics should be incorporated in their every action. I think the digital revolution is worth it, and that it will lead to a constructive evolution; if we do our part of shaping the future.