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Nov 2006 : You Say You Want a Revolution?
by Guest Editor Nathan Singer

     I cannot help but wonder how differently history would have played out had a young girl in Saigon or My Lai had the ability to share a daily journal of her life with the entire planet in real time. How would the protest movements of the 1930s or the 1960s have benefitted from the ability to create flash mobs? What would folks back home have thought – or done – if soldiers from wars past had documented their own atrocities so thoroughly as ours have at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay? And made photos of said crimes so instantly accessible to boot. Not so long ago burning one library to the ground would rob the world of centuries worth of literature and information, and battles were fought to protect (or destroy) data that we now hastily click past to get to Fox News or obese midget porn.

Who could ever have guessed that the portable personal telephone would be the most crucial and all-encompassing component of our lives?

Here we are in the midst of the Communications Revolution, what I hope is simply the first wave. Here we are. Instantly connected. Perpetually and willfully isolated. Working through the growing pains of a completely new and strange mode of human interaction. Here we are, with unprecedented access to vast amounts of information (some would say too much) a mere finger click away. Virtually unlimited potential for education is right before us (see above Fox News and midget porn). Instant global communication is commonplace (see above Abu Ghraib). Speaking strictly for myself I have very dear friends with whom I am constantly conversing, and yet I have not heard their voices in over a decade. And I’m fine with that. Camera phones have the capability of giving the owner the opportunity to record the activities of perfect strangers without their permission or even knowledge. That is not a secret feature, it is a main selling point as advertised. No one seems to mind. My neighbor’s husband is not only able to watch, via his cell phone and from across the globe, the same television shows she is, but he is able to switch the channels as well. And she finds that not a bit odd. These are not computer scientists or billionaires, but average, blue collar people. That same neighbor recently helped the FBI catch a kidnapper by tracking the perp’s cell phone. It took him all of five minutes. Just another work day at Sprint.

Even a relative Luddite such as myself would be left wailing in the wilderness haplessly jabbing a half-sharpened stick into the encroaching darkness were it not for email and Google. And as for word processing? I can barely sign my own name anymore, let alone write longhand (or even bash out anything coherent on a typewriter).

But as I ask myself the above questions regarding how folks from the past would have handled the technology that is part and parcel of daily life at the start of this new millennium, it occurs to me just how academic such musings really are. For I have no idea how these issues play out today. How is our use and access to electronic media ultimately affecting the common sympathy? Are these breakthroughs in communications technology truly altering our thinking and development as a whole? Or will basic human nature remain ultimately unchanged? After all, putting a chimpanzee in a waist coat and wingtips does not make him an investment banker. And I have found that, after the initial giddy thrill of being able to converse in real time with someone from an entirely different culture thousands of miles away has subsided, saying:
“Howzit goin?”
“Aiight. You?”
“Aiight,”
gets just as old as it does face to face.

So here we are. Gil Scott-Heron was only half right, for The Revolution has been televised AND it is live – in streaming real time video. And I remain, for now, cautiously optimistic. For I ultimately feel that there is no such thing as too much information, and that the more access everyone has to it the less opportunity those who wish to keep us ignorant have to fulfill their ambitions. I ultimately feel that dialog between people will ultimately yield greater understanding and possibly even greater compassion, no matter how ugly or coarse the language may seem at first. There will be bruises and hurt feelings along the way. But greater control over our own destinies is the reward. Enlightenment and deeper understanding of our world comes through more talk, more thought, more access across the board. And, of course, as long as humongousasses dot com continue to update their pix on a consistent basis, what a wonderful world it will be.

Nathan Singer November 2006






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