Shards

We digital immigrants consider our (media-saturated post-modern) physicality as the ‘real’ world. For today’s young digital natives, their transmedial realities — the elseware of MySpace, Second Life and the rest — are equally valid. Unlike many, we don’t think they’re escaping from, or denying ‘real’ reality: they’ve just internalised the precept that all reality is socially constructed, and vanished off into someware more fun, of their own making. And why not?

Their generation is busily — knowingly — creating their own be-ing. The rest of us, in denial, still privilege a ‘genuine’ reality, while all the time, we are also moving (not retreating or escaping, but simply moving — inexorably), into digitally-mediated realities (The-World-According-To-Google is as much a virtuality as Second Life) where the temptation of easy self-selecting tribalism leads to ever-reducing direct contact with others’ world views — and thus a weakened shared ontology of the World.

At least the kids acknowledge their departure. The rest of us media-immersed first-worlders could do to be more honest about the future we’re making. Forget a ‘Clash of Cultures’ — cultural evolution far outpaces the biological kind, and is equally senseless and free-floating: we’re not heading onward-and-upwards towards some glorious technotopian dawn, we’re setting course towards a fundamental schism with the reality experienced by the rest of our species.

Without a common ontology — an origin story of the metaverse of divergent cultural shards — we no longer have a shared basis for debate, resistance or synthesis; let alone understanding, or reconciliation. This contemporary chaos of dysculturation jettisons dialectic: the paths of our private realities may start separate and parallel, but we fear those tracks will soon diverge, leading off into ever more isolating futures.

We no longer talk, but damned if we aren’t in love with tools for Social Network Analysis, ‘reality’ content, all such proxies for actual engagement: touching from a distance, further all the time.

4 comments

  1. Maybe it’s just the women in my family (though I suspect it’s not), but we’ve had our separate realities for many generations already. Women often live whole separate hidden lives in the ‘real world’ that few men know anything about, so in that sense, perhaps a similar kind of ‘schism’ occurred a long time ago.

    This latest technological kind of ‘schism’, shards of existence, cannot only separate us, but also bring us together in another sense (beyond the five senses) with people we might not have otherwise known. This ‘touching from a distance’ is, I think, preferable to never having been touched at all.

    But what do I know, I’m just a pixellary figment of your imagination here, aren’t I? *smile*

  2. Good call (and hello!). I should make clear that this post is intended to be the first of a series exploring this area a bit — and one of the main thoughts is around exactly that — I think we have a lot of well-evolved strategies for clustering and forming affinity groups, which have served us well as a species (with some serious caveats, see below).

    My concern is that the accelerated cultural changes that infotech is enabling might lead to a malignant (un-selfregulating) expression of those evolutionary strategies. If so, then we really DO need to be concentrating really very hard indeed on building tools that bridge our new tribalisms (culturally hard!), rather than just enjoying our little closed affinity groups and looking at pretty maps of the others (culturally easy) — thinking hard about tools for engagement, rather than simply describing separation as if it’s an abstraction.

    There’s the sad truth that historically we haven’t done credibly well, very often, or for very long, in bridging the gap between those of us with biological differences (gender, ‘race’), let alone cultural ones. None of which bodes well for our ability as a species to deal with such matters without a LOT of determination… more soon…

  3. To be fair, Martin (above) pointed me to your post (we know each other from an online community at Newsvine.com), and I also use coComment to track my comments around the web so I’ll know if someone replies. If you haven’t seen that, you should, it’s kind of a neat tool… one that could help glue together some of the ‘shards.’ 🙂

    In ‘real life’ I’m cynical and pessimistic, but in this digital reality, I’m actually rather hopeful about bridging the gaps among the various members of our new tribalisms, and I see social-networking as a sort of extended family (which I don’t actually have in ‘real life.’ The reason I keep putting that in quotations is because my online life is, to me, as real as my offline life… they’re just different aspects of the same thing, although I’ll admit that there are aspects of each that are missing from the other.

    Take, for instance, the fact that I was willing to post something in the comments of your blog. You’re a stranger to me, and in offline life, it’s quite unlikely that I would simply walk up to a stranger who is in the middle of a conversation and offer my two cents. I’m actually rather shy, so this isn’t something I would do. Online, it’s a completely different story. 🙂

    BTW, I’m in complete agreement with the last paragraph of your comment above. Until we begin to see that all human beings belong to the much larger tribe of “humankind” it may be difficult to bridge those gaps. Prejudice and hatred have done nothing but tear us all apart and perpetuate those schisms.

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