Alexander Bard’s provocative keynote speech at Next Berlin 2012 challenges the way history is taught, with industrialization presented as the climax of human history. He believes we need to contextualize history not in terms of the Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age, and Industrial Age, but rather in terms of information, such as spoken information, written information, printed information, broadcasted information and finally the Internet as participatory information.
Trained in sociology, Bard examines technology in the context of the paradigm changes that are taking place in society. His observations on identity shifts in today’s youths is especially compelling. Young people are no longer individuals but “dividuals,” having multiple, different personae (the Greek origin for “person” meaning “mask”) depending on where and who they are with.
Unfortunately Bard also asserts “Congratulations to everyone diagnosed with schizophrenia. You’re the winners,” a remark that taints his otherwise cogent presentation. It seems to go to far. Sherry Turkle, author of the recent “Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other” presents conclusive evidence that these “dividuals” are by no means happy with their lives of multiple personae. To call the confused, often depressed state of mind of the schizophrenic “winning” is simply wrong. Nevertheless, aside from this mistake, Bard’s lecture is still worth watching and is quite entertaining.