Being ‘always on’ is in many ways quite seductive. We knew in the 20th. Century that information and knowledge was power, and many of us still have that sense deeply ingrained in our psyches. But like many seductions it is all an illusion. While the power, seamlessness, and real time qualities, of streaming information is undeniable, in many ways being ‘always on’ is actually being ‘often off.’ Information without context is really quite useless and certainly can’t masquerade as knowledge.
Of course we need new information, but in a non linear world we also need to take time and space to make sense of what is occurring. We need to understand the new patterns. My experience is that so many Blackberry addicts stay in the old patterns becasue they are so busy being preoccupied with information! They have failed to understand that with the amount of new information being created every day to fill a small sized room with digital information, the rules for success are changing. What we all want and need is the ability to filter, synthesize and apply.
Taking time away from information gives us the space, allows this filtering to occur and also fosters synchronicity. That is the connecting of totally new ideas, from outside our established patterns with what we know, to produce new stuff. Otherwise all that happens is that we just get caught in the hype of the moment. In the 21st Century the processes and frameworks that we use to process the vast array of information are as important as the information itself. Taking time to reflect - turning off - is really the time when processes and frameworks meet information.
In many ways the global media mimic Blackberries on steroids. They think that all people want is information, and of course we all do, but only to a level that helps us make sense of what is occurring around us. I think we also need ideas and commentary that helps us make sense of it all. That ability to provide commentary was what earned the media its initial title of the fourth estate. One, that of more recent times, they have happily abandoned in favour of their infotainment ‘circus circus’ role.[see note below]
Being ‘always on’ is learning how to step away from the information, to get in touch with our internal selves and build the courses of action that will help us navigate this uncertain and turbulent world. In many ways it is much more uncertain because of the rate and nature of information exchange. And for those of you who are really addicted to your email, who really feel that the world can't do with your reply to all emails, do a quick audit and name 10 significant emails that you read last week. Can you?
Note. From four to five estates? The notion of estates refers to the institutions of competing interests that need to be balanced, if one is to create a civil society that is open diverse and tolerant. Depending on who you read, in general terms these estates are, or were: The King, President or executive who constitute the first estate – they lead. The second estate is traditionally the church [or in some societies]senate or representatives of the landed interests [nobles] – and the third estate is the people – they provide mandate and set the laws.
The fourth estate is the media who are in many senses the glue or mirror that enable each of the other estates to interact in honest ways with each other. Some, including me, argue that the traditional media have abandoned their role as the fourth estate and reinvented themselves as infotainment businesses – sort of 21st century versions of the Roman circus – to keep the people happy and preoccupied! I and others hope that the fifth estate – the internet - will in time take over this role and in the process disintermediate and make the role of the fourth estate redundant.