Generation G

June 4, 2009 Leave a comment

In the final chapter of “What Would Google Do?” (recently referred to by Marianne), Jeff Jarvis makes a provocative statement about the future and promise of a networked world.  Many of the points Jarvis makes appear to turn things on their head, at least compared to the way that many of us might first react to developments in our ever more densely connected and information-rich world.

A few things to ponder:

1.    This current generation is growing up with an ability to stay in touch with nearly everyone they meet throughout their entire lives.  Whereas those of us who grew up pre-Facebook may have lost track of old childhood friends and college buddies, this generation has the possibility of always being more directly in touch with the different chapters of their lives.  Scary?  This seems profound to me, and yet I don’t really know exactly how.  What might this do to the very nature of relationship?

2.    The flip side of TMI (too much information) is greater transparency.  Young people are putting so much more of themselves and their lives out for public consideration.  Often this gets construed as risky and/or a kind of exhibitionism.  However, if more people are playing the same game, then perhaps the rules will enforce greater overall acceptance and safety of full and liberating self-expression.  Jarvis quotes author David Weinberger  – “An age of transparency must be an age of forgiveness.”  Wow.

3.    And what about all of that apparently inane information that people share about their bunions or the mold growing on the bathroom tile?  Well, how about the benefit of “ambient intimacy” (Jarvis quoting blogger Leisa Reichelt –, swapping the small details of our daily lives?  This may just help us to develop stronger relationships as we come to know more about people who would otherwise be just acquaintances, or grease the wheels for the next time we physically see one another or talk by phone (less catch up time).

Throughout these and multiple other points, Jarvis seems to be suggesting that more integrated lives and more widespread trust are a result of living in the Google age.  Given that collaboration thrives on trust, and that collaboration may be our saving grace as a species (see Charles Darwin and my post “The Group Effect” – ), shouldn’t we all be striving to be fully exposed and (wireless) card carrying members of Generation G?

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  • Linda says:

    Fascinating ideas Curtis! The pushback I get (on a very regular basis) is some combination of “I can’t even keep up with email” and “I want to spend less time virtually and more time live” – as well as concerns about privacy.

    I have seen a need for different kind of connectedness as we are more mobile – running into each other in the grocery store is less and less possible as our relationships are spread more widely. In some ways, this is the shift that was needed for the generation I grew up in – but without the technology to do so.

    And I’m totally intrigued with the notions about transparency, integration and trust!

    The outstanding question is the one about spending so much time virtually. I know it has been wonderful for me – but as we are pushed more and more in that direction, I also wonder about the costs. What do you think?

  • Curtis says:

    The costs question is a good one, Linda. I have found Facebook to be a tremendous asset at this time. With the birth of our two girls, there has been a groundswell of support coming from all parts of my life, which has been tremendous, helped me to feel less isolated, and made life seem very rich indeed. And if this was my only mode of contact, I would be one unhappy dude. The neighbors physically stopping by has been important as well, not to mention the presence of extended family members. I think it’s all about balance and knowing the place of these tools, not expecting more from them than is possible for them to deliver (for example, I believe that intimacy comes from more in-person connection – limbic resonance). I can also say that given I am a bit of an introvert energetically, I find the Web 2.0 to be incredibly liberating as it allows me to express myself in written ways and to communicate when I want. That could also be about me being a control freak.

  • Gibran says:

    I’m remembering reading how when Ram Dass came to believe that his Guru could read his mind, he understood there was nothing he could hide and this made him feel radically free.

    I’m also making a connection to Rockwood’s “how do you lie” exercise and how it makes you so aware of the things you want to hide.

    This level of self-exposure brings a truly radical shift, one we might only be able to understand anthropologically, because we simply were not born within it, it is the kids that will show us how.

  • Santiago says:

    Your post, Curtis, and the comments by Linda and Gibrán have stir up some thoughts I’ve had for a while now regarding the pace at which technology is growing. For one, as I have mentioned before, what does this mean for the majority of the world who don’t have access to the Internet easily, wired nor wireless. And what about those who can’t read. The next piece I question too is, we are embarking on a time where we, those who frequent the Web for work and pleasure, need to embrace a new form of literacy all together. A literacy in which we fully understand how computers work, their codes, and how to best utilize programs and protect ourselves. With facebook for example, I don’t know who owns the things I’ve posted, and much less will I know who owns it when facebook goes public as it is rumored to do so. In a small nutshell, all these thoughts of access, ownership and understanding enter my head as the technological capabilities grow.

  • Charlie says:

    Hmmmm…. am not so sure about greater connectivity leading to greater trust. What if you’re connected to a bunch of thieves? Seriously… it isn’t the quantity of our connections that matters (Jarvis is overcompensating for something, me thinks) it is the QUALITY of our connections that will matter when it matters most.

    An age of transparancy and forgiveness sounds good to me – but what if, just supposing, the age of connectivity/transparency turned into an age of retribution?

  • Melinda says:

    Wow. Ive been missing out on some rich posts and discussion. Its been an intense few weeks…no, months. Thanks so much for the WWGD primer…I am definitely going to pick up the book (hey — can I borrow yours?). Definitely going to muse on the > transparency = > forgiveness a bit further. I think there’s some truth there. Charlie’s point is well taken in that, in the end, humans are still human with the potential for the dark side as much (or more, some say) as for the light. I guess its a question more of what will play in the public/civic sphere as norms due to this shift that will be different. How people will “show up” in light of these new norms will likely be the same as before, but just in a playground with new rules, so to speak.

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