[Here's a bit I've got so far prefacing That Project Provisionally Called a Book.]
Say Everything, Scott Rosenberg’s book about “how blogging began, where it’s going, and why it matters,” begins on the morning of September 11, 2001.
Along with first-hand witnesses in Manhattan, many other people across the US gravitated online to share their thoughts and feelings about the tragedy. Dave Winer — one of the first bloggers, not to mention one of the most influential – used his site to post information about his feared-missing father that morning; he explained, in a subsequent post:
We want to figure out what happened, what it means, and where we go from here. The world changed today. It’s still very fresh.
While that happened I felt the same urge: I wanted to make sense of it all; the best way to do that was to start writing. I wasn’t blogging but I felt the compulsive need — a feeling I eventually became very familiar with — to consume more information, more information, more information, more… and inject my own thoughts into those vital conversations.
If I was just a little bit geekier, or better-connected, or more self-assured, I might have started blogging at that very moment. Instead, I started a long process of personal deliberation, extensive research, and intensive reflection.
It took years but eventually the answers started to emerge — not by looking directly, but by turning around and wondering why we ask these questions in the first place.
It all boils down to this; science, religion — and anything touched by what we call “media” in the broadest sense – derives from our essential urge to “figure out what happened, what it means, and where we go.” We’re seldom conscious of it but it’s a constant process — or rather, we’re seldom conscious because it’s a constant process, which we can never fully get outside of to observe…
When I finally started blogging in 2007 I established an underlying argument that in order to address the world’s biggest problems we need to “invest in ideas” and develop better ways of thinking and deliberating.
As I got in the habit of blogging and communicating via digital media I developed a clearer appreciation of what it can do within the big picture of human history.
But to explain it we need a fresh understanding of human nature.
Part of the reason we’ve had so much difficulty making sense of the complex events of the past decade is that our ways of thinking — specifically, the metaphors, analogies, and images we resort to — have not caught up to the technologies and practices of our age.
We live in a world that consists of distributed, decentralized, and constantly-changing networks of real-time connections, but we still think in terms of simple one- and two-dimensional polarities, velocities, pressures, and collisions.
It’s like we’re trying to draw three-dimensions without knowing anything about linear perspective. It would be easy if someone could just show us the tricks — but nobody has quite figured those out yet.
Overcoming the old habits, learning new ones, is an incremental process. Think of it as replacing planks on a platform one-by-one rather than tearing the whole thing down. We still need something to base our thinking on, it’s impossible to simply clear everything away at once. Or you can think of this as either bootstrapping or disentanglement: we need to get the new ideas through the old; ratcheting ourselves up gradually, using the old habits as leverage for learning new ones.
Specifically, digital media needs to serve as a metaphor for appreciating the new ideas about human nature; at the same time, the updated understanding of human nature is required to fully appreciate a socially dynamic world connected by digital media… back-and-forth until both aspects become intuitive.
[Well that's a start, for now... Questions & feedback welcome. Further reading is here if you're interested. I'll also be working some of these ideas out in a live discussion Nov 5, which you're invited to.]