June 27, 2010

Radical transparency + Retrosexuality = Sustainability?

Is Digital Culture Helping to Promote a Sustainable One?

Old school masculine shaves and haircuts (a.k.a. the retrosexual), the explosion of hand-crafted burger restaurants, the slow food movement, the “fixie,” the single speed, barefoot running, heck even organics themselves….there’s a movement bubbling up. Something a little more sophisticated than the back-to-basics notion. Or maybe I should say, a little more primitive?

I recently had the good fortune of being a part of a clandestine meeting with a certain dot-com-era high-profile headliner-type person.

I was under strict confidentiality, but suffice to say the online (and offline) behavioral and sociological experiments he was able to conduct 10 years ago were fascinating. One of the facets of his body of work is that people, when put into complex, and often highly digitized, situations, tend to go behaviorally backwards. There’s a primitiveness that we have within all of us that kicks in when societal stimulation becomes overly intense. Crazy things happen sometimes as a part of this and the notion of man becoming more like Niles and Frasier is about the farthest thing from what really goes down. It’s probably somewhere between that and Lord of the Flies.

So why does this have any connection to this particular online magazine?

If you haven’t guessed by now, “sustainable culture,” is an obvious and emblematic sign of everything above. But what’s hyper accelerating this latest back-to-basics trend is the digital culture. The “ah-ha” moment for me a few years ago was that the more connected and transparent we all become, and the more the concept of a global village comes to life, the more we will head back to our primal roots.

Think about the experience of prehistoric man.

He could hear and see everything his neighbor did, he spent the evenings catching up with family, friends and co-hunters around the fire (if he was lucky enough to have it) and virtually every aspect of his life was out in the open.

Sounds a lot like Facebook, huh?

Privacy is a modern day phenomena, yet the more we lose it (big government/corporate brother), and the more we let our lives become a rolling newsfeed, the more primitive we will become. Once we yank the mobile smart phones out of our teenagers’ hands, the circle will be metaphorically complete.

My only hope in this era, and future, of radical transparency is that one of three things will happen:

1) Sustainable living will become more a part of every day life (than accidentally ending up in the natural food aisle of Wal-Mart for most people)

2) Positive behavioral pressure will be felt by the actual human board members of badly behaving corporations

3) That my next trip to eat an organic burger on my single speed townie will also involve a proper shave at FSC Barber beforehand.

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Rob Schuham  |  Contribution: 700