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I was recently giving a talk in Toronto, sharing the stage with Mitch Joel of TwistImage, an online marketing firm in Montreal. Mitch is also the author of the Six Pixels of Separation blog. Mitch went first in our two-man show, and gave a great presentation about trends in online usage and adoption, with especially riveting stories about user-generated content (such as how the new lead singer of rock band Journey was discovered).
But one thing Mitch said really struck a chord, hitting a thought I have often had but rarely articulated — we are living in the midst of a new Renaissance.
Now, this isn’t an academically sound assertion. The Renaissance was a complex historical manifestation of trends that have not repeated themselves. Yet, in the spirit of a rebirth of creativity, political activism, learning based on source material, and educational reforms, the era we feel moving beneath our feet has all the potential of ushering in decades, if not centuries, of creativity and inventiveness, knowledge and communication, that could culminate in something akin to Renaissance II.
This impression was reinforced for me on a recent evening out with friends. We were talking about the differences we saw between ourselves and our parents regarding political awareness and voting preferences. What it boiled down to wasn’t age or generation, but access to the Internet. Without exception, people who were voting for one candidate watched television and eschewed the Internet, while those voting for the opposing candidate used the Internet for research and fact-checking, as well as news.
Through this lens, the bewildering (to me) closeness of the US Presidential election was largely explained. It may have a great deal to do with the fact that the media you consume has limitations that shape your awareness, as Neil Postman argued in the 1980s. This was also born out in a recent Technorati study of bloggers, who spend much less time watching TV than their counterparts. Bloggers are part of the new Renaissance, and in order to play a role, they abandon TV. The message is clear to me.
And this is why we are on the verge of a new Renaissance thanks to the Internet, with access to source documents, a more enlightened populace, more writers and communicators actively thinking and positing and arguing, artists sharing and collaborating (and being discovered) in new ways, creativity being rewarded quickly and emanating from many corners of the world.
Hold on to your hats, folks! It’s going to be a wild rebirth of civilization!