Week 2 at #Lifehack Labs: The Feedback Loop between Technology and Culture

Weeks out from #Lifehack Labs, I pondered over the type of content that I wanted participants to be clued up on. Given our remit, it was clear that technology had to be part of that learning journey. Trying to cover all things technology is pretty impossible. Aside from participants’ varied knowledge of the matter, the topic itself is so vast. Rather than going into the ins and outs of the latest developments, it was the effect that the use of some platforms have on our culture and vice versa that seemed most important to explore.


We looked at some popular networks like Facebook, Snapchat, Tumblr and Twitter to see if and how people use these. It becomes obvious that it’s not the medium, but the message that counts. To put it in the words of Red Burns, co-founder and chair of the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) in the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University


‘Think of technology as a verb,

not a noun. It provides the tools, creative

people provide imagination.’


It also shows that with new developments, we often go to extremes – whether it’s the use of artificial flavours added to food, or the way in which young people send hundreds of text messages today. We often need to wait for time to pass to develop a shared understanding and culture around how to use new things, before it normalises.


This in particular is evident in the idea, labelled as digital dualism by Nathan Jurgenson, that people separate their online persona from their real-world one. When witnessing Twitter users, for example, trolling this becomes real when the attacked takes action in the real world, much like in the instance of British professional boxer Curtis Woodhouse. When told to retire because he couldn’t ‘defend a pathetic little title’, Woodhouse set off to find the person posting these messages to teach the verbal abuser a lesson. Having gone as far as driving to that person’s street, Woodhouse didn’t seek revenge on the person who assaulted him – but instead demonstrated to him that what’s said online counts just as much as the real world.


It is also ever-important to acknowledge that technology influences culture, and that culture influences technology. As both evolve simultaneously in their own paths, yet crossing over and intersecting, it can be helpful to keep a close eye on both. Instagram for example, is a great way of showing the multitude of ways it can be used. From posting outward-looking scenic shots to putting an #aftersexselfie photo into the world of two very content-looking people – technology mirrors some human behaviours, amplifies others, mutes the next, and completely changes another. With such complexity, it’s fascinating to keep an eye on technology affecting our world, to see if and how it can be used to change our world for the better.


Many of the most baffling developments happened in the last second, or so it seems. 3D printing, the Internet of Things, RFID enabled wearables… it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and that it’s too late to get even started sometimes.


With technology developing at a seemingly ever-increasing speed, it’s soothing to keep in mind the words of Kevin Kelly from Wired Magazine.


‘Right now, today, in 2014 is the best time to start something on the internet. There has never been a better time in the whole history of the world to invent something. There has never been a better time with more opportunities, more openings, lower barriers, higher benefit/risk ratios, better returns, greater upside, than now. Right now, this minute. This is the time that folks in the future will look back at and say, “Oh to have been alive and well back then!”

The last 30 years has created a marvelous starting point, a solid platform to build truly great things. However the coolest stuff has not been invented yet — although this new greatness will not be more of the same-same that exists today. It will not be merely “better,” it will different, beyond, and other. But you knew that. 

What you may not have realized is that today truly is a wide open frontier. It is the best time EVER in human history to begin. 

You are not late.
Here’s the full presentation:

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