Connection in a Disconnected World
Communication has always been at the root of large communities, and it's often the decisive factor in their size. Britain withdrew from India and its other colonial interests in part because lack of communication made development of governments which worked with local traditions and expectations impossible. Even as Rome grew to an unbelievable size because of its highly developed road and communication network, it eventually fell to the same problem as all communities which grow too large: Because of poor communication of ideals and concepts like religion and tradition, the sense of unity in the community is lost.
But now with the rapid development of phone, email, and internet connection, some of that need for proximity is going away. In a recent post on Mindjack, Paul Hartzog took us through some of the implications of this newfound distance connectedness. Some of the things he finds particularly interesting are the ease with which culture spreads over the medium, and the variety of different facets of culture which are now virtually non-region specific (at least inside regions with similar media connection, like North America and Europe, or Japan). While this piece is more geared toward the future ramifications of such connections, there are some current implementations which are pretty amazing.
One of the most impressive of these is the new territory of Nunavut in Canada. Officially formed in 1999, Nunavut means "Our Land" in Inuktitut, the native language of its people, and is one of the newest new territories in the world. It is also one of the most sparsely populated. While it comprises 1/5 of the landmass of Canada, it only has 26 settlements, and around 25,000 people -- with the proposed expansion of Manchester United's grounds, 3 times that population will be at each sold out game. And yet, despite this separation, they have come together as one people. Part of their success is due to orchestration of events via E-Mail, and the internet, which they are adapting for their native language, petitioning for support from Microsoft and others.
Other countries like the Federated States of Micronesia and parts of the Caribbean, who have widely dispersed populations over many small islands have benefited similarly from new connectivity technologies.
So what does all this have to do with design? Well as it turns out, good design also has a tremendous ability to create community. iPods, Miatas, even simple things like the nametag and the whiteboard provide a catalyst for people who share something in common to come together. Overcoming this barrier of "strangeness" -- the condition when people meet, but cannot see their similarities -- is one of the most amazing powers of good design.
And in a technological climate where this information and idea sharing can take place at greater and greater distances, it's very exciting to think of the opportunities possible when design is applied to these technologies in radical new ways. So, what's it going to be? Are you going to be safe, and create something like every design before you? Or can you go out on a limb like Nunavut, and say "It's impossible, but we can make it work. And when we do, we'll have a country like no other on earth." Come on, this is the time to do it.
Copyright 2004-2006 Dominic Muren and IDFuel Team