I’ve been thinking about my feelings of being “out of the loop” after the class conversation a few days ago. Because there is so much information from so many sources, available in so many media, I have “opted out” of keeping up with pop culture. As I lamented how this sometimes puts me out of the loop in casual conversation, one classmate made the astute comment that that there is no “one loop” anymore.
People have always sought friendships in people with similar interests and values, but now where you exist on the social hierarchy is determined by what “loops” you pay attention to. For example, if I were to use msn.com to get my news and information, I would probably find no social currency in common with my colleague who gets her news and information wired.com.
Furthermore, people can hone in on very specific news and information from a variety of sources, almost to the point of becoming an expert. Though I do appreciate the opportunity to research and understand more about the topics I care about and ignore the things I’m not interested in, this pattern seems to be fractious, leading society back to village mentality. By this I mean that instead of being part of mass culture, people find niches, or villages, where they can live and associate with similar kinds of people.
Committing to a village, while at the same time feeling pressures and expectations of mass culture creates stress for me. In Laws of Media, Marshall and Eric McLuhan refer to this phenomenon as chaos — and they blame the juxtaposition of linear, left-hemisphere societal context with the all-at-once right-hemisphere electric technology:
“The paradox today is that the ground of the latest Western technologies is electronic and simultaneous, and thus is structurally right-hemisphere and ‘Oriental’ and oral in its nature and effects. . . the overwhelming pattern of procedures in the Western world remains lineal, sequential, and connected in political and legal institutions, and also in education and commerce, but not in entertainment or art. A formula for complete chaos!”
Where does this leave the mindful citizen, who wants the benefits of emerging technology without losing the connections of shared social currency?