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How to Understand the Digital Revolution

How to Understand the Digital Revolution

February 20, 2012

The massive shift in media delivery and consumption has made it highly evident that we’re at the forefront of a digital revolution. We’re in the embryonic stages of fully grasping what’s to come. In a sense, we’re at the beginning of the future. The internet is leading the convergence of the video, television, marketing, and advertising worlds. But that’s not all. The scattershot way that these moving parts all intertwine is changing the way we think. The internet is rewiring our brains in a consequential way. Does this make us better infovores? (yes, that’s a word. Look it up in urbandictionary). Or is the absorbing, processing, and ordering of information causing chaos, clutter, and inefficiency?

Tyler Cowen, author of Create Your Own Economy, argues that “human brains are constantly absorbing bits of information that get smaller and are delivered faster as technology advances. The more information people receive, the more they crave.” Cowen believes this is a liberating mechanism that allows humans time to contemplate more ambitious, long-range pursuits.

The information available on the internet is expanding in a holistic sense. But it’s also getting smaller with personalized niches. Our focuses and interests in turn become more finely honed at a granular level.

For a typical person, you encounter the web, and you feel overwhelmed, but you figure out how to impose some local coherence in your own way, if only by using Google search or going to your “favorite places” bookmarks. You resort to some mental ordering, usually with the aid of technology. At first you’re just struggling to keep up, bu the more time you spend on the web, the more you are in control. You move from bookmarks to Facebook to Twitter and then to hyper-specialized sites for ordering the details of your life. You move from bewilderment to a sense of increasing mastery.

Organizations and platforms can now target niche markets that were not readily available in the past. Many apps now exist that restructure how we normally encounter daily activities. For example, GroceryiQ let’s you organize your grocery shopping. Notability integrates the long lost art of handwriting into an app that features note-taking and data capture. And of course there’s the ubiquitous Pinterest which is changing the way people absorb and process all different types of information – from fashion, to food, to travel, etc.

The media and technology all around us – news, movies, books, magazines, Internet, apps – conforms how we react and adapt to society. Analyzing and observing these new informational hierarchies allows us to get the big picture of just how much we’re being rewired. Being perceptive to this ongoing evolution and revolution is critical. It allows us to understand how our brains and society evolve alongside our long-range pursuits.

How do you feel media/technology is rewiring the way you think?