Oct 23, 201309:00 AMPoint of View
The METROPOLIS Blog
A New Humanism: Part 35
(page 1 of 4)
Whatever ways we may have been responding in the past to building environments “out-there,” we are inexorably changing “in-here.” As the overwhelming mass of information we are always confronting becomes concentrated, more and more, into dazzling, crowded streams of digital packages and virtual representations – and as we spend more time exploring and learning in those digital worlds – the ways we experience all environments will necessarily change. Networks in the brain and sensory systems – and even some gene functions – adjust to exploit whatever usable information engages the senses – programing us as much as we are programming them. And it seems likely that a result will be changed expectations about human experience and expanded humanist ideologies. That’s what’s happened in response to innovations in information technology for millennia. In any case, here are observations made, by a digital immigrant, in a sense, yesterday.
First, when information explosions like this one have happened before – starting with our first literacy and on through Gutenberg to wireless broadcast, the Internet and forms of implants – we have repeatedly jumped into the communication technologies that enhance speed, convenience, and scope with an acceptable level of reliability. And as our impatient predator’s brains craving information adapt to each new media environment, the breadth, texture, and rhythm of experience itself necessarily changes. Like any new human encounter across newly opened borders, we enter into new communities, learn from their wisdom, and hear captivating new stories – always looking for the pleasure of more – more connections, more information, more sensations per second, quicker judgments, a sense of more answers, more easily.
Yet we all know that a quick glance, short attention spans, and repeated first impressions tend to probe no deeper than stereotypes and produce popular proverbs like “a-little-bit-of-learning-is-a-dangerous-thing.” We’re rightly concerned about time being needed for rational thinking to kick-in, contradictions to get sorted out, memories to be searched, and aroused emotions to be resolved. We can readily miss out on the extended chains of reasoning and thoughtful conversations that have produced and consolidate much of our most reliable knowledge.
At the same time, though, in a quick sequence of diverse well-scripted and orchestrated glances, we are often able to learn “enough” for our present purposes; and “just-good-enough” is the way evolution itself works. Equally important, though, the extraordinary creativity and ingenuity in today’s information technology and persuasion industries demonstrate, one more time, that basic, evolved human nature – our talent for inventing “tools” and education techniques – can readily adapt to and master repeated revolutions in an information – like any other -- environment.
Charleston, SC, “South of Broad” – where the national prestige of the old -- the excellence, fitness over generations, and beauty-for-its-own-sake – has lasted and prospered alongside waves of the new.
Courtesy Albrecht Pichler
We’ve proven that in the past, too. New media with their faster pace – like new forms of transportation – or new aesthetic dimensions in architectural style -- have taken their place alongside the old because they still serve specific purposes better. They’ve just expanded human capabilities. And we have plenty of innate mind-body learning capacity that hasn’t been tapped out. Continual adaptation, after all, has been a fundamental survival strategy. And in the design fields – if perhaps not in diplomacy – it appears that by compressing routine tasks, we release resources both to nurture and enhance the creative imagination and the wisdom we gained in evolution – whether we use it well or not.