Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Social change in the Information Age is more complex and focused on individual needs.

A focus on "me" is the result of the nature of the Information Age.

The Information Age creates the Me Generation. 

by Tom Thorne

After the Information Age landed on us in the mid 1970’s with the introduction of the important concept of “personal computing” it also spawned the Age of the Individual  or as it is often known The Me Generation.

The Me Generation can only exist when there is a ubiquitous digital network linking personal hand held computing devices that are equally ubiquitous. No one is ever out of touch when connected to such a system. No one is ever away or alone. You are always connected unless you make a conscious decision to turn off. But even when you are turned off the system is still taking messages from those who still want to reach you.

As a result of these techniques, employers get thousands of extra hours out of their employees who feel duty bound to stay in touch 24/7 with work. The work day doesn’t end at 5 PM as it did in the Industrial Age. In the time before personal computing the work day ended and the personal day began. 

Now the work day is never ending and it is seamlessly melded into everyone’s personal day. In fact, personal time is now largely nonexistent. Work is always potentially where you are. As a result work is now redefined. The Industrial Age idea that work is 9-5 is now pass√©.

This technology has simultaneously created the Me Generation which has the following characteristics. The focus of this development is the individual and their needs.  It is completely normal to be in constant touch and on-line with the world. Most of the people 40 and younger don’t know a time without this situation. Your connection to the networks is the most important aspect and focus of your life. You are a kind of mini celebrity who is constantly bombarded with information all focused on you. 

This situation creates a kind of ego tripping as mini-celebrity takes hold. What you are doing is the most important thing at that moment. Real humans wait or are interrupted while Me Generation people satisfy their needs in the instant they are on. In the Industrial Age such behavior would be considered rudeness. In the Me Generation world someone else’s time and space as a real human is just like another email or Twitter and is out there for the next answer even if it interrupts someone else’s focus on a book, TV show or movie they are watching. Real life is treated as another message to deal with instantly. 

There are emails, text messages, Facebook and Twitter. You are the centre of what I call Pseudo Celebrity the receiver and clearer of a constant information flow available 24/7 and where ever you are. Your focus is you and your needs. Real life situations are seen with the same value as a text message. The focus is now and in this instant.

The effects on the human psyches who practice this lifestyle is to become dependent on their smart devices. The users are hooked on information.  They are never seen without their smart phone, tablets or laptops. Even while talking to a real human they will be texting a response or filtering their emails from someone else in real time. Me Generation people are by their nature multi-taskers and that is normal although it often destroys attention spans. 

They are always turned on and live in a world of pithy texting and small dollops of real life that are fitted in between their life on the network. Real life (flesh and blood humans) are seamlessly woven into their time receiving and transmitting on the network with cyber friends.

In this world there are many young people who have low or non-existent attention spans. More kids are being defined with Attention Span Disorders  by educators and experts. However few people who find this growing problem have made the connection to the 24/7 networked lifestyles of contemporary life or children’s addiction to iPods and Game Boys. It is my contention that the techniques of a networked world are taking their toll on attention spans of the young.

Then there is the discovery of many more learning disorders and the extension of personal computing culture to create personal learning plans. That also happens only in a culture called The Information Age.  Personal learning plans can only exist and be managed in a networked culture with personal computing at its core. Mediated learning enables the teachers to handle individualized education plans and remedies. 

Otherwise you have the mass education of the Industrial Age educational models. Only in a world of personal computing focused on the needs of the Me Generation can you have or even discover ways for personal education plans. In the Industrial Age this concept could not exist.

My point is, I think, clear. Humans are defined by their cultural techniques. Culture, especially high technology cultures, are defined by ubiquitous communications technologies. Marshall McLuhan warned: the medium itself is its own message. Networked life both creates knowledge and remedies the problems that an Information Age culture discovers by its rapid compounding of information, data interpretation and creation of new knowledge bases. No wonder we now have so many names and definitions for contemporary learning disabilities.

© Copyright 2012, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved

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