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On or about December 2012, human character changed – to misquote Virginia Woolf.
But if Woolf was talking about the impact of new technologies (such as the rotary press) and new professions (such as advertising) on how we expressed ourselves a century ago, then it’s worth taking a moment to consider the difference current trends in ICT are making to human character today.
Instant access to conversation platforms, encyclopaedias, news, maps and media – wherever we happen to be – is revolutionising the way we relate to one another. First of all, there’s the sharing trend. Everything’s open-source, peer-to-peer: what’s yours is mine, even down to what you know. I expect you to lay your history and provenance bare – whether you’re a public service, a fashion label or a dining room table [see ‘Object lessons’, p30].
This ‘common’ knowledge represents a great resource. No wonder business leaders and entrepreneurs are looking further afield for ways to keep ahead of the game, a trend Tess Riley explores in ‘Crowdsource your future’ [see p18]. It’s against this lively backdrop that Sally Uren urges brands to rethink when to compete and when to collaborate [see p37].
How we talk to each other is changing too. Rich exchanges, and even profitable ones, go on between people who’ve never met, and perhaps never will. Shared interests define more communities now than shared location. Perhaps it’s time old soap operas like ‘Neighbours’ were reborn as ‘Networks’…
Access to communities and information at any time and from anywhere is giving rise to new ‘roaming’ lifestyles, changing the way in which we relate to location altogether [see ‘The new nomads’, p16]. And so, as fixed abodes and offices begin to seem passé, adaptability climbs the ladder of key survival skills.
The more we move, the more rapidly we’ll need to pick up on different cultural expectations, says Philip Malmberg, who is leading the merger of Ecover and Method, and the international expansion of both brands [see p28]. Even the locations we think we know will be transformed from one day to the next, as water levels rise and fall, and land planners would do well to prepare for this, warns Peter Madden [see p4].
So how will all of this affect our ability to live and prosper within the world’s limits? Personally, I hope it will prompt greater awareness of how much we depend on each other and on the resources we share. After all, says Jonathon Porritt [p48], one thing we will always own is our responsibility towards each other and the systems of which we are part.
Anna Simpson, Managing Editor