It seems that ‘millennials’ in America do not have a lot of confidence in their institutions and markets. According to a 2016 Vox survey, corporate America, governors, and news agencies ranked the lowest. The status quo is not faring well. This is not surprising if we look at the major shift in how we humans are organizing, which is only the fourth in history. The TIMN model shows how each shift created a new dominant form of organizing people: first in tribes, then through institutions, and later in markets. And now we are beginning an age of network dominance.
The obsolescence of institutions and markets is a natural effect of the rise of networks, such as the social media platforms that connect these young people. Institutions no longer control the flow of information and neither do the current news market leaders. In networks, there is no dominant player, other than the platform owner (see platform capitalism). Many institutions and market players are seen as obsolete by these networked young people. They cannot relate. But what can they relate to?
The Laws of Media may help us understand how to move in a progressive direction for a T+I+M+N society. In a post on the need for a hierarchy shift, I said that the dominant organizational model needs to shift on the continuum, away from hierarchy, toward networks. Reverting to old, and simple, hierarchies (like those the millennials have little confidence in) will remove us from our obligation as citizens to build networked organizational models for society. The Laws of Media, developed by Marshall & Eric McLuhan, state that every new medium (or technology in the broader sense of the word) has four effects (a tetrad):
- extends a human property (the car extends the foot);
- obsolesces the previous medium by turning it into a sport or an form of art (the automobile turns horses and carriages into sports);
- retrieves a much older medium that was obsolesced before (the automobile brings back the shining armour of the chevalier);
- flips or reverses its properties into the opposite effect when pushed to its limits (the automobile, when there are too many of them, create traffic jams, that is total paralysis)
Old Tribal forms are already being retrieved by groups that yearn for a simpler time. They are bringing back tribal forms such as patriarchy, nuclear families, and clan identities. Meanwhile, we have few engaging network models to motivate people. What is the compelling vision of a network economy? So far it is the offer of another crippled network, run as a walled garden by corporate interests. Advertising crap that people don’t want is usually the underlying business model. No wonder the network era seems less than compelling.
If we want to live in a more progressive quadriform (T+I+M+N) society, our institutions and markets will have to yield their power and enable new forms to be developed. If not, the tribal forces may continue to drag all of us down. We need to retrieve our common kinship and extend our connections to create a more empathetic form of organizing that further extends human creativity. One possible approach is an applied blueprint for the restoration of democracy. Please read it.