Communications Media and Institutions
By Arnold Kling
Marc Pesce delivers a few facts and a lot of breathless prose.
Somewhere in the last few months, half the population of the planet became mobile telephone subscribers. In a decade’s time we’ve gone from half the world having never made a telephone call to half the world owning their own mobile.
…fifty thousand years of cultural development will collapse into about twenty...each behavioral innovation is distributed globally and instantaneously…Any fringe (noble or diabolical) multiplied across three and a half billion adds up to substantial numbers. Amplified by the Human Network, the bonds of affinity have delivered us over to a new kind of mob rule…the more something is shared the more valuable it becomes…All of our mass social institutions, developed at the start of the Liberal era, are backed up against the same buzz saw. Politics, as the most encompassing of our mass institutions, now balances on a knife edge between a past which no longer works and a future of chaos.
Pesce claims that cultural change is going to accelerate. I wonder what this means for educational and political institutions.
In terms of reading matter, people seem to be looking for information in smaller chunks. See, for example, Kevin Drum’s suggestion that books and long magazine pieces now strike him as padded. Most of Tyler’s commenters agree.
I wonder if college students would say the same thing about the courses they take. Maybe they get the point after a few weeks, and the rest is padding.
Pesce asserts that our political institutions are not congruent with the new technologies. I agree that there is a lot of tension between a political system where control is highly concentrated and a communications system where control is highly dispersed. Pesce seems to foresee people assembling into mobs, with a lot of conflict among them.