This is a half-baked concept that I’ve kicked around in my head for a bit, and just recently acknowledged out loud (and got a “yes! exactly!” response from someone who is clearly a new friend). Again, this is something that is difficult for me to encompass succinctly. One would have no idea from these blog posts that I am a big fan of the text message, and often write my emails in a bulleted list, able to condense most forms of communication into simple phrases. I guess we all need another outlet. So here it goes:
I think that when most of us think about ‘globalization’, we often think of the all-mighty internet, and especially the revolutionizing effects on communication and economic activity (and especially the ease & speed of transactions, and the cascading effects of these, etc). It seems to me that this access – this openness – after a couple decades, has allowed, encouraged and motivated a focus on things closer to home. I’m not quite sure what the relationship is, or how it works, but I’ve tried to explore it a bit:
By obscuring the concept of physical distance, we are exposed to the realities of humanity (not just perils of the human condition, but literally just the existence of human experience) in potentially far away places, which stimulates interest in the humanity that is just outside our everyday or immediate experience, that is, our community. Also, the concept of the ‘online community’ has caused us to rethink the idea of community, and what it means to be a part of one. (And has offered so many ways to address that omnipresent human desire: to belong. Oh the humanity.)
Access to information also brings a greater awareness of – or inability to ignore – things like the previously obscured realities of supply chains, heavily propagandized advertising & the values in corporate decision-making processes. The space between the manufacturer and the consumer is shrinking (see previous post on service design). This brings to mind the slow food movement – a movement with a strong emphasis on transparency and localization. Stemming from this is the idea of authenticity as a valuable commodity. Even if you can fake it, you probably can’t for long. (Though anyone marketing to hipsters will continue to try, I’m sure. Seriously though, if authenticity is what sells, it will be feigned. Which is why stuff like this and this makes me think twice. One thing at at time though.)
Since money talks, its interesting to note some localizing, or community based, movements around funding, from kickstarter to the crowdfunding law. (Which is about to pass?! For things already up and running, look at smallknot in Brooklyn, or the Local Investing Opportunities Network. The eventual goal being to float small-scale investments on an exchange, and the result being a very direct self-interest to buy, source, and hire local.) There are also examples from community philanthropy, to carpooling, and even the 2008 success of Obama’s community & online organizers to look at. Through greater connectivity, we become more locally focused.
The second part of this half-baked rant, is that this is nothing new. Its a cycle. This inward focus is a return to community awareness — a return to the concept that the community is a source of growth and identity, and a return to human-centered decision-making.
Did anyone happen to catch this article, “Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs” a few days ago? I find it quite interesting because it I think it reveals some pretty significant value and cultural shifts that will be relevant for those in decision-making positions, and it also illustrates this idea that we’ve come full circle (not GS necessarily, but in the context of this topic). The author, Greg Smith, reminisces about a time when his pride in his job at GS stemmed from a culture that “revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients”. Now, however “the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money”.
The way this article reads supports a sometimes-thought of mine that initially, globalization offered an indulgence, a corrupting influence even (information is power, after all; and power – mostly – corrupts). In fact, our first reaction was to use this as a tool towards whatever ends we were pursuing – growth, mostly. So I gotta say, I think we’re self-correcting here. I think that amid all this connectivity, our inclinations towards community are an inspired and appropriate use of our globalized minds. I think its a trend we can see in each of many distinct sectors, and even industries – which might be a much more interesting and/or compelling way to present this topic. Another tangent is how this plays out in the ‘online world’ vs. ‘the real world’ – are they really so separate? If so, will they continue to be? Will we find a balance?
As always, I have lots more thoughts about this (I mean, what does being human mean, anyways?) & would enjoy talking it out sometime; any takers? What are more examples of this, from anywhere in the world?