The Internet has been subtly shaping the bonds between us for over three decades, but it is only much more recently that the development of the social web, in combination with increasingly sophisticated mobile hardware, has brought to light the potential power of the 21st century individual.
In their 2012 book, Networked, researcher Lee Rainie and theorist Barry Wellman coined a new term for this influential combination of software, hardware and connectivity; they called it The Triple Revolution. The authors note that with Internet access becoming progressively ubiquitous, making each and every one of us more instrumental than ever before, it is our newly extended networks that render opinions and actions particularly meaningful.
Indeed, leading American thinker Dan Tapscott believes that new, web-enabled networks are key to solving contemporary worldwide challenges, harnessing collective influence to sway governance, policy, advocacy, and global standards across all manner of organisations, from nations to institutions, large or small. According to Tapscott, author of bestselling book Macrowikinomics, these multi-stakeholder networks should consist of four pillars: the nation state, the private sector, civil society and–now–you. This newfound influence of individuals is shifting the political and personal landscape, reinventing democracy based on active citizenship and true transparency. “The future is not something to be predicted,” he argues, “but something to be achieved.”
Many commentators have lamented the rise of the social web, anxious that it breaks down traditional ties such as the family and local community, increasingly isolating individuals to the detriment of themselves and wider society. Yet as as Rainie and Wellman quite rightly point out, “people are not hooked on gadgets – they are hooked on each other”. Now, more than ever, we are accorded endless opportunities for development through extensive networks that, though perhaps looser, are much more far-reaching and person-focused.
During these times of economic and environmental turmoil, our interconnectedness is one of our strongest assets. Thanks to the Triple Revolution, the power to make meaningful and lasting change is finally at our fingertips. So how will you use it?