The Rise of the Monoculture
It was Cicero (http://goo.gl/dpY2Ec
) who some 2,500 years ago first put together the words "cultura animi" (cultivation of the soul) therefore articulating and bringing into being not just the concept of culture but also its definition.
Dictionary.com defines culture as “the quality in a person or society that arises from a concern for what is regarded as excellent in arts, letters, manners, scholarly pursuits, etc.” (http://goo.gl/w3zQB
) and it is of particular interest to us when we think that culture, an insubstantial, fragile and even ephemeral effect is an emergent phenomenon that exists purely in the mind and it appears only after society (a self-evident, organized, complex made up of interacting groups of organisms engaged in persistent relationships - http://goo.gl/MJShhj
) has taken form and began to evolve.
The subject is of particular interest to me. By the end of this month I will have been in four different countries and three continents and I will have spoken to hundreds of individuals that are in leadership positions within large, commercial organizations. Bodies of men and women governed by the sense of a particular culture, embedded within societies that have their own sense of culture, operating in a world where we are busy forming our own unique, and now largely common culture. What critics often disparage as ‘monoculture’ in an attempt to stymie the ability of the web to create something new which will inevitably challenge us.
Anthropologists suggest that beyond the local or ethnic characteristics of culture there are twelve cultural universals that are found everywhere: 1.
Communicating with a verbal language consisting of a limited set of sounds and grammatical rules for constructing sentences2.
Using age and gender to classify people (e.g., teenager, senior citizen, woman, man) 3.
Classifying people based on marriage and descent relationships and having kinship terms to refer to them (e.g., wife, mother, uncle, cousin) 4.
Raising children in some sort of family setting 5.
Having a sexual division of labor (e.g., men's work versus women's work) 6.
Having a concept of privacy 7.
Having rules to regulate sexual behavior 8.
Distinguishing between good and bad behavior 9.
Having some sort of body ornamentation10.
Making jokes and playing games11.
Having some sort of leadership roles for the implementation of community decisions
At their very core these twelve universals guide are a monoculture of sorts and help drive all human behavior (http://goo.gl/heAKmy
). They’re also the best answer as to why a monoculture, which would indeed help us as a race by improving tolerance and communication and removing some of the worst excesses of our behavior towards each other would also be full of sub-cultures, each preserving much of the identities that many fear will be lost and creating a lot of new ones in the process.
To understand both the fragility, complexity and persistence of culture consider +Steve Bonin
's write up riffed off one of my Sunday Reads on Culture (http://goo.gl/JDbcCH
) or +Eli Fennell
's magical piece on internet marketing and its direct link to culture (http://goo.gl/Nv5c9T
). They both talk about something I discuss sometimes relating to work (http://goo.gl/BhXcxI
As an emergent mental phenomenon our sense of culture and the powerful pull it exerts upon us exists only in our minds. There are two immediate takeaways from this: First, it cannot exist in isolation. Culture is a collaborative phenomenon (http://goo.gl/hjmFkX
) arising spontaneously the moment humans interact. It is the result of connectivity, it requires tolerance and acceptance. It is driven by the desire to help others, make oneself useful and to create happiness and joy in one’s real or virtual environment through the contacts and connections that are established. Second, as a mental phenomenon it can be influenced by any of us. All of us.
This means that the fusion of work and life and living and digital that we intuitively sense is happening before our very eyes and of which G+ and its unique culture is just one aspect, has been happening for much longer. We just refused to see it as such. +Luis Galarza
surfaced a piece (http://goo.gl/bRW4Tf
) that covers as much.
Technology now plays a central role in the way culture is shaped and Google is at the very heart of it through its now three-year-old Google Cultural Institute (http://goo.gl/g7HR87
) that is busy creating a new sense of the world for everybody. +Walter H Groth
's share of a post shows that our more refined sense of culture is universal in its appeal: http://goo.gl/EcMfR9
those who fear that a techno-driven monoculture lacks any form of viable artistic (and therefore ‘soft’) expression overlook Silicon Valley’s hidden culture (http://goo.gl/pUyjT8
No talk of culture would be complete without the mention of sex and +Jennifer Ouellette
’s share is bound to raise more than one eyebrow (plus teach us something new) – http://goo.gl/ZzOxpf
Finally finishing off my round up of links on a high note in another example of the ability of sharing, connection and connectivity to create a new, wider, open culture +Charlie Richmond
's share of Getty Museum’s free to download Art Books (http://goo.gl/fH2lSX
) perfectly fits the bill.
Are we changing? Yes, we are. My madcap month has, if nothing more, shown me that I managed to remain sane in the long days where the timezone, country and continent I was in became blurred because of Google+. For me it became an anchor point. Wherever I was in the world. Whatever time. Whatever country. You were all there, with me. Providing an immersive environment that was stable and enriching.
This is new. Culture has always needed others in order to emerge. While we participate in it we cannot create it on our own. In the past our local, physical limitations also meant acceptance. Immersed in the emergent phenomenon of culture that was created by our surroundings we frequently found ourselves trapped. Making compromises. The culture we were in might not always have been the culture we craved.
That is what’s changed. Wherever I went this month, my world, my connections, my
culture. You. Were there with me. That made me more resistant to the need t make compromises in my thinking when I was alone (and ‘different’) in other cultures and, paradoxically, more open minded. With the sense of threat that goes with the overwhelming of one’s identity, removed, I was better situated to acknowledge, assess and consider the validity of the many other cultures I encountered (both social and work-related ones). And I benefited from it.
The monoculture is coming. It’s driven by technology. But instead of leading to an annihilation of traditions and a total submergence of our identities to a massive, global group norm, it is more likely to lead to a greater acceptance, understanding and cooperation with each other. Not a bad thing to consider. Right?
It’s Easter weekend. If you do not have chocolate eggs on hand you’re missing out. Let the coffee be plentiful and the sweeties be abundant and have a great Sunday wherever you are. #davidamerlandsundayread