This chapter looks at the future — or, more accurately, the possible future — of living in a world in which digital connectedness is so prevalent.
The rise and proliferation of the internet, digital media, and ICTs represent the potential for individuals to live richer lives, but also those that are more closely scrutinized and surveilled. As we have seen, the harnessing of collective knowledge and superconnectedness yields infinite possibilities, but the outcomes are unclear, unsure. There are infinite possibilities, which can be daunting and overwhelming or exciting and freeing.
Upcoming generations of digital connectors will likely find digitality in and of itself to be neither daunting nor confusing. Children and young adults growing up in a technology-rich environment have several advantages: comfort and practice in interacting and building social worlds online; agility in moving among online and offline spheres; considering as default that which occurs in digital spaces to be very much “real.” They tend not to have a problem seeing the online and offline as enmeshed. Soon, children in tech-rich communities and societies will have always known a world in which it was so. When that time arrives, what will be lost? What will be gained?
Individuals will always be challenged to create cohesive identities and communities and to understand the workings of both. In the modern technological world, people are, and will remain, superconnected. The thoughtful, strategic, shrewd use of the internet and digital technology can help people better manage their techno-social lives and create a future filled with rich, diverse experiences. To do this, they – we — must become and remain educated and literate about techno-social life.
The internet and digital media provide countless opportunities for involvement in the process of making and shaping and critiquing and improving technology, the world around us, and our own lives. Passive consumption of technology and of changes that have been decreed by others inevitably leads to feelings of weakness and hopelessness. Individuals need to feel some control over their lives, and democracies require that people have a voice and control. If we outsource technological expertise and decision-making to others, we give them control over all the aspects of techno-social life discussed in this book. We give others control over our lives.
So I invite you again, as I did when we began our exploration of techno-social life in Chapter 1, to take its lessons and explore those issues most relevant to your life and to those whom you care about. Network. Speak. Create. Remix. Act. Use the technologies at your disposal, and those to come — including those that you, yourself, make — to shape the kind of world you want to live in. Connect with others who believe as you do. Use the internet, digital media, and face-to-face gatherings, in combination, to build and sustain those connections. With curiosity, creativity, and a critical mind – all of which I hope this book has helped you to develop — there are almost no limits to the journey you can take and the difference you can make in your own, superconnected, techno-social life.