Sunday, March 20, 2011

Social Evolution: Harking Back to Move Forward?

By Gunther Sonnenfeld
[The following was a real exchange between my friend, Brendan, and his wife, Maureen, over breakfast just the other day. Quick note: Brendan is on the content side of the media business, Maureen deals in social marketing.]

Brendan: "We're so lucky, to be in a moment in time where (storytellers) can literally communicate globally, in real time, about what matters. Beethoven and Picasso and Da Vinci would've given their eye teeth to have what we have. I used to think we had to storm the barricades. But there are no barricades. That's the revolution. There are no barricades."

Maureen: "Yes. We're a new aristocracy -- in the Jane Austen sense: we have the tools and the time and the causes that we can advocate for, because of who we are and because we know these technologies. It's not about an aristocracy of money, either, it's an aristocracy of responsibility and listening. We can lead responsibly, collaboratively, transparently. ‘Social media’ or whatever you want to call it... It's us, because we know how to listen. We are all media. We are all narrative. We are all consensus builders. We are all responsible because we're privileged to understand these technologies and how they change relationships.

By learning how to listen, we've gone back 200 years. Maybe more."

Brendan: (stunned silence)

The transportation of ideas and intentions have existed for centuries. People always were the telegraph system. And when couriers brought messages via horseback, conversations were seeded. People gathered at train stations to discuss the news of the day. In American urban and rural centers, the town hall meeting was a means to converge around economic problems in the community, and there, right in that physical time and space, people made critical decisions and took action.

Technology will always be here with us, or even ahead of us, waiting for us to help it guide us down empathic or ethically-driven paths. The questions remain as to what we are willing to do to make these systems main veins into collective consciousness and civil application, or simply disruptors that enable the manipulation of our individual thoughts, our hearts and our circumstances.

Perhaps the identity of the self can really only be defined through meaningful contribution. And perhaps the social evolution we are witnessing on a global scale is driven by that mythical imprint. It is the ability to harness a narrative through one's own genealogy, and through the promise that biology can be hyper-extended into new spaces in which the choice to become whole is manifested by those truths which really are self-evident.

Pre-order a copy of The Immanence of Myth, published by Weaponized in July 2011.

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