While I've been writing here about emergent complexity for the past month, I've had a question in the back of my mind. "How will all these transitions fit into Marshall McLuhan's Tetrad of media effects?" Back in 1988, McLuhan wrote about the patterns of effects that new media have on current and previous media. Time and again he perceived how new media provided extensions to our current capabilities, over-extended something else until is reversed, retired something that had been rendered obsolete, and revived something that had been previously retired.
When new media take effect, we lose the form and alter the function for the next round. When horseless carriages came along, we continued to benefit from what horse-pulled carriages did for us without the horses, feed, grooming, mucking stables, and blacksmiths. We'd go for rides when no horses were available. When phonographs entered our world, we continued to listen to music performed by others without getting dressed up, going into town, buying tickets, sitting in concert halls and applauding after the performance. We could listen to music on the Victrola anytime of day or night.
I've previously explored this Tetrad of media effects in 2007: Sense of timing from pervasive connectivity and in 2008: Emergent global implosion and Imploding into homeostasis. With my most recent exploration of complexity, I'm seeing a new pattern of these four effects that I will explain in detail this week:
- Entrepreneurs currently talk fluently about their value propositions as solutions to customer problems and business models for fitting into market spaces or bridging intersections between paths. As our pervasive connectivity takes further effect, I foresee this entrepreneurial technology being EXTENDED to a personal level. We will be thinking "I am a business model" and "I offer a value proposition" when we contribute to online collaborations, crowdsourced projects and productive commons.
- We are currently in a phase of being very generous, caring and free with our time, creativity, knowledge and talents. It's evident in the phenomenal amount of "user generated content" that gets uploaded every minute. This is a reversal from being selfish, greedy, mercenary and controlling. However, this mode of contribution is headed toward becoming over-extended and REVERSED. It's gone too far and seeks a winning combination of win/win, mutually balanced and fair deals among us.
- We are seeing a resurgence of tribal activities in international conflicts, online games, urban crime and political activism. These transitional forms are hostile, adversarial and disruptive, yet they foretell a REVIVAL of tribal feelings, emotional engagement and solidarity.
- As communities become more resourceful, helpful to each other and resilient, there will be less need for the old economic and governance structures. Institutions and market mechanisms designed for dependent citizenry and passive consumers are becoming obsolete. Societies will RETIRE these bulwarks of the old economy that now seem toxic, abusive, unresponsive and counter-productive.