Global context collapse / The map imports reality

Globalization + Internet = Real Time Context Collapse. 

The double punch of globalization and ubiquitous internet access have collapsed context.

  1. There are no more future places. For example, say in the global West, Japan might have been considered a place where the future played out before it hit the rest of the world in the 1980s-2000s. (Lots of sci-fi projection here, but also a significantly innovative tech sector that got sidelined a little with general computing smart phones and app ecosystems in the second half of the 2000s…)
  2. Local cultural/contextual differences shrink significantly through intense, real time global exchange, and even more so through social media. Pop culture and consumption patterns are truly global now (exceptions apply, but bear with me). As is a global style, to a degree. It’s not that local affinities don’t exist anymore, but they’re a lot less pronounced. In many ways they’ve stopped being the default. On the other hand, you can walk into pretty much identical coffee shops or boutiques or coworking spaces in every corned of the world. While much of this might be superficial, it also speaks to a deeply rooted non-location specific (sub? mainstream?) culture.

So, roughly speaking there is no more future; and barely a here. Instead it’s all global, all very similar — at least superficially.

We have maps of everything and everyplace now. Your digital map will undoubtedly direct you towards a somewhat generic style of (locally or globally owned, but largely interchangeable) restaurant, café or shop.

But with the map, you import reality. With Foursquare, you import the coffee shop, and/or the people who demand and expect a certain type of coffeeshop.

It’s a version of the observer effect: The mere observation of a phenomenon inevitably changes that phenomenon. Introduce a mobile map and recommendations and you stop document and start redirecting — and make everything just that much more similar.

(Afterthought: I’m idly wondering if the pandemic and the lockdown rules that it brought us is going to lead to a lasting shift to more locality. Time will tell.)

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