Martin’s Weblog

Welcome To The 21st Century: The Beginning

The noughties are a new decade, century and millennium – the changes happening with technology and their impact on identity, culture and society really are this momentous.

One way to see these changes is with a straight historical contrast and you can see my rough work on twitter here.

The 20th century can be seen as the peek of traditional ways of doing things that really do stretch back to the dawn of humanity – familiar things extrapolated to the extreme with mechanisation and automation and with extreme consequences to the environment we have now come to understand. I covered much of this in 20th Century Industrial Processes: Culture, Identity and Information

I characterise the past era as one of “concrete” thinking” – thinking and activity that is rooted in and characterised by a predominance of physical objects and events. Thinking that books are literature, newspapers are journalism and CDs are music. Thinking that schools and colleges are education. Thinking that the office is the workplace.

“Concrete” thinking goes deeper though – I also describe the past era as the era of “pyramids” – the design and construction of hierarchical, elitist and stable structures – the standard organisational model often manifest and symbolised by top floor executive offices.

I characterise the 20th century as an era of super large scale manufactured production and personal consumption – the extreme end of the application of tools from the stone axe to the modern production line.

I characterise the 20th century as an era of mediation, privacy, secrecy and obfuscation – a consequence of the elitist pyramid model to maintain stability and equilibrium and a Marxian interpretation of culture.

Technology developments are for the first time I think providing the opportunity to transcend traditional “concrete” ways of thinking and acting – my main focus is on Information technology but radical developments are taking place in all the sciences, leading new applications of technology and “unthinkable” effects and opportunities for humanity, culture identity and society.

I characterise the 21st century as an era of “networks”, indeed the internet symbolises and facilitates “network thinking”. It’s an era of flat, integrated, dynamic, and emergent structures. The 21st century is already and will be increasingly fast, complex, chaotic, uncertain and “organic”.

The 21st century will be increasingly open, public and participatory – it will be an era of personal production where large organisations may consume the output of individuals but there will be increasing disintermediation and scope with individuals transacting directly.

In a nutshell I see the 21st century as an era of software.

This blog is intended as the basis of a series exploring associated ideas, technology, cultural, educational themes etc.

Please add your comments.


May 17, 2009 - Posted by | culture, future, IT and society, paradigm 2, society | , ,


  1. Hi Martin,

    When I was doing my Master’s in Applied Linguistics I remember reading an interesting article by Kaikonnen (sp?) discussing ‘intercultural competence’. The theory is that language cannot be separated from the culture in which it is spoken/used. Language is a representation of that culture and therefore to be truly competent in speaking a new language you must also become culturally competent. I guess this is why there are some words in certain languages that are not representated by equivalent words in another – they simply don’t have the same words or ideas because they are different cultures.

    Anyhoo – something about your blurb made me think of this, and how it is so relevant nowadays with different cultures connecting instantly via the web. Indeed, web users themselves are part of their own culture and have their own accepted netiquette that is quite foreign to non web users or new web users learning to find their way around.

    And how does this impact on education? What about distance learning via the web? You could have someone from China studying on a UK based course and thus involve not only the difference in language, but the difference in the cultures of learning, and use of the internet…

    Points to ponder, eh?

    Comment by Grere | May 18, 2009 | Reply

  2. Grere,

    When writing the blog it was in the back of my mind that I’m only talking about “us” in “post industrial” societies – wake up call that our world is changing rapidly as we move into an information and knowledge economies.

    The situation is different in other cultures and there is a huge area for anthropological discussion along the lines
    that social networking models are more natural – we are moving back to a more natural style.

    Comment by martinking | May 26, 2009 | Reply

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