it’s in the genes…..
We have a tendency to believe that technology is a tool.
That we use technology to accomplish our own ends.
In point of fact, technologies are more like viruses.
Once unleashed, they ‘infect’ a culture, reproduce like… well, like iPods, and bend a culture to their own needs.
Technologies carry within themselves a kind of ‘dna’, an inherent blueprint that creates a culture that is reflective of the technologies themselves.
The invention of the automobile, for example, created a completely different cultural blueprint for American society than that which existed before the car. The arrival of automobiles changed almost every aspect of American society – from economy to politics to religion to culture.
The automobile ultimately mandated the arrival of an Interstate Highway System – where else would the cars go? They needed safe, efficient, comprehensive roadways across the country. The arrival of the highway system dictated almost irrevocably the arrival of suburbia – once you could drive cheaply out the cities, and land was still inexpensive, why not build?
That outmigration created a new cultural stamp in America, but that, in conjunction with the highways and the cars also brought about highway based fast food chains like MacDonald’s, highway based fast hotel chains like Holiday Inn; shopping centers, WalMarts, Benneton’s, KFC and on and on and on.
The automobile also brought about the centrality of oil and oil supply, as it became the lifeblood of a culture now dependent upon cheap mobility.
All from Henry Ford’s invention.
Television was another technology that sent its own DNA hurtling through American culture and stamped it in its own image:
Today, the average American watches an astonishing 4.5 hours of TV a day. A day!
If we, as a culture, every one of us spend 4.5 hours a day, every day, reading, we would be a very different kind of society. But we don’t. We spend it watching TV.
The DNA of television, because of the nature of the technology, created a culture wherein very few ‘create’ and the vast majority’s job is to sit and watch. Passively.
The sheer cost of creating and transmitting the signals meant that only the very few would ever get to produce.. and only a very few ideas would ever get transmitted.
Although we like to think of television as a ‘mass medium’, it was, in fact, a kind of desert of information. A tiny trickle of content.. drip drip dripped out hour by hour on a few channels.
The society that grew up in the world of television grew up essentially being instructed by the technology that effectively said “we know the facts”, your job is to sit at home, shut up and watch us. The “Katie Couric” syndrome.
Now along comes the web.
Its a new technology.
With a new DNA.
The technology of the Web, and its DNA, lays out an entirely different construct. It mandates a world in which people participate instead of passively observe and receive information.
The web DNA will prove as irresistable as was the DNA of the automobile or television. It is going to ‘create’ a new culture – from top to bottom. And for us, it will completely reconform most aspect of culture, economy and society.
We’re calling our Brussels media conference DNA2008 for a reason.
Like the color of our eyes or our hair, our future is very much spelt out in the DNA of technology.
Maybe we should call it Brussels CSI?