Tuesday, November 29, 2005

copernican who?

Copernican Turn: a partial explanation

We have reached a turning point. Almost everyone feels this in one way or another. It goes beyond the effects of technology, cultural mid-life crisis, or consumerist burnout. We stand on the cusp of a new era not because of anything external, but because we have reached a point where change is as inevitable as puberty -- and every bit as uncertain. What is certain is that we have the ability to affect the outcome, but perhaps not the courage or foresight.

The Net is obviously a huge factor in this changing dynamic. But I dont see the Net as the catalyst of technological change -- I see it as an expression of our collective will to communicate. If you think back over the development of the Net, no one predicted email as the "killer app". Why not? Because it was not sexy enough. It did not have the George Jetson feel of being in that imaginary future (I'm still waiting for my picturephone!).
It's also worth asking why email *is* the killer app. My feeling is that it's simply what we know how to do. It fits our cognitive frame of writing letters. We know how to communicate in the written form more easily than any other at the moment. I believe this is already changing to a more multi-modal form but that's the subject of another post.

So the question is, if the technology is not the driver, but rather our will to communicate, are we capable of determining a rational course of action which will produce desirable outcomes? Or are we always forced to accept the seemingly random pitching and tossing of the communications marketplace? If we accept the idea that the Net is a commons, what does that imply in terms of making it thrive? If the Net is more than a series of tubes (or wires), how do we frame that notion so that it makes sense to foster stewardship rather than allowing the tragedy of the commons.

The Net is unique and provides an unusual opportunity to reach a previously unattainable space -- a transcendent state. It's transcendent in many ways: crossing national boundaries, ideologies, and almost time itself . And I dont think we've seen even a fraction of what is possible. We have to be willing to not only engage our imagination, but also be willing to wrestle with the hard issues of how to ensure this new era will be improving rather than devolving.