Defenestration: the act of getting thrown out a window by someone else. There’s a very famous one: the defenestration of Prague, the only reason I know this word. Some Catholic-Protestant ugliness in 1618, where a few Catholic regents were thrown out a three-story window by Protestant nobles. They fell 70 feet. Miraculously, they did not die. This is probably why the story still survives – because it ends well. But not all such stories do.
In some ways, culturally, we seem to be in free fall. I don’t mean this in a moral sense, but in a more sociological one. The clearly defined structures that used to sustain us, solid institutions like newspapers and hard and fast job-force categories, are melting away. It’s hard to understand where the real sources of power are, truthfully. Is it us, is it our leaders, is it our financiers, science, technology – where is it? It’s all confused. Perhaps no more than before, but the sense of a guiding structure (whether true, or untrue) is most definitely disappearing.
So we try our best to understand, because that is the best we can do. But there’s no sudden clarity at the end of this tunnel, no instant answers. We trudge on, but the fog stays.
So let’s try to impose some structure, then.
We have a society that’s increasingly funneling itself and its own self-understanding through technology. Gone are the days when unplugging from the Internet seemed like a viable option, when you could live a whole life with your books and your typewriters and lose nothing of value. Technology has become so important that it’s detached itself from its own definition, in a sense, and been absorbed into various industries, under their name.
As it’s trickled down into various fields, then, it’s now possible to siphon off these benefits without ever really identifying strongly as a technology user. I have a friend who, despite an excellent business school education, found himself jobless and in search of work. He found an online niche related to home improvement and installed himself in it, without ever really having a very clear understanding of the technologies he relied upon. It didn’t matter; his site worked, his shopping carts worked, his customers were able to find him and he (through his relationship with distributors, who he’d simply called up) was able to sell to them and make a profit within a couple months. Easy as that.
He’s an online retailer now, but he doesn’t think of himself as being particularly tech-savvy, no more than the average person; we live in a culture now where it’s possible to be in IT and yet not identify as such. That, in its own way, is a marker of how far we’ve come.