Friday, August 8, 2014

How technology is changing time, space and relationships

Genevieve Bell is an anthropologist and Vice President at Intel.  In a recent column interview of the NY Times, she commented on how technology is changing society in terms of time, space and social relationships.

"First, there are changing ideas about time. With the advent of electrification in the 19th century, there was no more night. Now with digital we think in new ways about availability, responsiveness, the time it should take to get things done.
The devices want to be connected, in touch, upgraded, all the time. We’re on their clock. But that may get renaturalized. Every major world religion divides out some kind of special time — there is time for prayer, time for fasting, time for celebration. 
I harbor a suspicion that we need to be disconnected at times." 
Space is also changing.  As Bell observes.
"We map physical space differently: At the airport, the location of power outlets becomes critical. We think of spaces that have good Wi-Fi or cellular locations. They are “better.” And we’re seeing the idea that the Internet is going to create one world is not quite true. Turkey turns off Twitter. You get different search results in different places."
Bell's third area of change is in social relationships.
The last thing, after space and time, is changing social relationships. 
"How do we relate to each other? What do we think about social ideas like privacy, security, risk? There are changing ideas about love, fear, passion."
What does all that mean?
"When tech affects ideas about time, space and social relationships, it carries anxiety. We are reinventing a lot of ideas around security, privacy, safety, love, marriage, kids, god, violence, the nation state, power, justice, money. Everything is up for grabs.
It means social movements will emerge around this, arguments about what government should look like. One hundred years ago there were arguments about government, and how we should organize ourselves. There was Fascism versus utopian government. We’ll have arguments about government and governance, about taxation and regulation."  
As Bell suggests, the technological changes associated with connectivity mean 'everything is up for grabs,' which is both exciting and contentious as we re-negotiate time, space and relationships. It is, however, a frontier we have entered and society cannot go back to where we were pre-Net.  
As pioneers, we cannot possibly know what the collective patterns will be, but we can be mindful of our own personal and micro-social (email, for example, is a social not personal medium) beliefs and behavioural patterns, which ultimately shape future society more than technology.

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