I’m facilitating some workshops this week around Community Management in Social Learning spaces. One of the Russian delegates mentioned that in her culture it’s ok for the moderator to tell people what to do and they will simply obey, whilst an Italian delegate said we have to be careful to thank people for inputs and apologise for every delay. British delegates, i know, may bring a touch of cynicism to events. But do these stereotypes stand true in the Social Age?
My feeling is that they will become less relevant. Why? Because we are moving away from culture being defined by geographical boundaries and historical social legacies towards it being a function of the communities that we are engaged in. A Twitter culture of sharing, a YouTube culture of broadcast, a Facebook culture of commentary and ‘likes‘.
These behaviours are learnt, as are the others that fulfil any stereotype.
As our everyday lives involve engagement in global social spaces, for learning, for support, for communicating, so our cultural boundaries will shift.
I still consider my self to be British, but my community is global and, whether i like it or not, my interactions with them change me. Call it a broadening of perspective, but whatever it is, if we travel, be it mentally or physically, it changes us.
This is nothing new.
Before the age of metalled roads and railways, we had rural communities with their own dialects, traditions, building styles and even fashions. Today, in developed countries, much of this is gone. Dialects rarely survive immersion in wider, popular cultures, Holywood stripped away the barriers of the oceans. Goods trains imported double glazing the internet made concepts of rural and urban largely a lifestyle choice, less a barrier to work.
The ways we communicate impact on culture: we are starting to see this play out. The role of social media in the collapse of oppressive regimes is a function of the ability of messages to amplify, to cut through the silence and share good ideas. Inevitably this connectivity will result in the loss of some differentiation. When everybody can see the new Robocop film and talk about it on Twitter (even if they are just watching a shaky pirate copy) we are building shared cultural reference points. And we model our attitudes and behaviours upon these.
So maybe people will be less inclined to be told what to do, maybe we will see more of a global social culture? In my more optimistic moments i see the potential for good: seeing that Russian attempts to repress LGBT freedoms come under a global spotlight encourages me that social media can be a force for good, that we will see global values emerge, values of tolerance and liberty.
Whether or not we can see the end of the road yet, my feeling is that these nationalistic stereotypes will become less meaningful as we become ever more connected, every more citizens of the Social Age.