Instant communication brings world together
By Grania Litwin, Times Colonist

“Celebrated Canadian thinker and new media consultant Derrick de Kerckhove predicted the 2000s would be the decade of contagion and it would be spread by the media.

He was right. It started with the millennium bug and ran the gamut of avian flu, SARS and H1N1.

Asked this week about the coming decade, the authority on global networking said we are entering an era where widespread instant communication allows people around the world to exchange ideas in what he calls “connective intelligence.”

“We have more power than at any other time in history to come together and dream a new reality. This was beautifully expressed in the movie Avatar, which envisions a new ethical order, a new ecological system.”

The biggest transformation of the decade will come when people realize their thoughts can create matter. In medieval times it was called magic, now it’s achieved through technology.

To illustrate his point he explained: “You can be 10 metres from a car, think about opening the door, push a key and it happens. And that’s banal compared to what lies ahead. Did you know you can now go to a gallery, see a painting, and leave a message in the air? It’s called air tagging and it’s invisible except to the person who navigates through the space later with the right equipment.”

Air tagging, also called space graffiti, is a wireless wonder made possible through GPS and cellphones.

“We need to dream our future now,” urged de Kerckhove, who is on the faculty of sociology at the University of Naples while on sabbatical from the University of Toronto. His best selling books include Brainframes: Technology, Mind and Business and The Skin of Culture, and has spoken both here, as part of the Camosun College series, and at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

The Belgian-born philosopher was raised in India where his father was a UN observer. He came to Canada in 1962 and now lectures around the world in Italy, Spain, South America, the U.S. and Canada.

From his home on the shores of Lake Ontario, he explained the networking site Twitter marks “a huge moment in the maturation of the Internet.”

“It is the pulse of the people. It indicates the interconnection of everybody and the possibility of instant reporting. Remember that guy who landed in the Hudson River? Within minutes it was a global phenomenon. It’s reporting in the absolute present,” said the former director of the McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology.

Facebook, MySpace, Linkedin, Twitter, blogging, instant messaging and other social technologies are examples of connected intelligence. They empower people, turning them into on-the-spot data relayers of everything from police take-downs to Mumbai terrorist attacks and Haiti earthquakes.

He applauds the WikiLeaks whistleblower. “It’s ridiculous not to recognize this as another maturation in the system. Now we can get the real news, we are not victims of ignorance.”

WikiLeaks is a global, social, emotional response to lies. It’s an appeal to human decency, a push toward planetary transparency. “Everything will be revealed … and as the old Malay proverb says: The higher a monkey goes up the tree, the more you can see his ass. Companies will have to become more ethical.”

De Kerckhove, who is also director of research in digital culture at the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute of Barcelona, said the challenge is adapting to the accelerating pace.

“We live by fragments. We Google our experience … but we should remember, as we put a cellphone and the world in our pocket, the world also has us in its pocket.

“And we should also remember this all comes from electricity,” said the researcher, who will spend the first weeks of his New Year recharging his batteries at one of the oldest sites on earth — the temple of Abu Simbel in Egypt, built to the sun god.”

Brought to our attention by
Internet Creates One World Order?

“From our point of view the effects of the Internet may be entirely the opposite. The Internet may be a force for fragmentation rather than consolidation. Just because one is able to connect with others around the world, doesn’t mean inevitability that the world draws closer together from a geopolitical standpoint. Knowledge of another culture has nothing directly to do with politics. “Globalization” is an artificial phenomenon driven by a power elite eager to consolidate further power…”