Monday, July 20, 2009

Farewell to Walter Cronkite

I had the good fortune to meet Walter Cronkite in Paris in 1996. It was during the early days of my work on virtual communities of interest and my strong conviction that communication technologies can be as damaging to social ecosystems, as transportation’s progress has been to the planet’s ecosystem. Our conversation started from that premiss with the statement that these disruptions are mainly caused by the acceleration of time and space through technologies. Walter Cronkite shared his view on how the western culture is being imposed into other cultures through the media. He quoted the The Islamic 1979 coup d'├ętat (AKA: Iranian Revolution) as an example of rejection when western media exposed a life style that threaten Islamic traditions... (“Showing women free to act as they please, open social criticism and mini skirts on television was too much too soon.”) Can we measure an acceptable threshold according to different cultures? What makes change acceptable to one culture and not to the other? What “sociocides” are we committing? Will we have nostalgia about one people’s way of life?... As citizens of the Virtual Age we know that immaterial models have value. It is perhaps time for us to seek solutions and awareness about the next ecosystem to save; our rich and diverse cultures.

This meeting gave me material and strengthen my conviction about the risk associated with the speed of communication. A paradoxical awareness given the nature of my work! Meeting and discussing my work with Walter Cronkite was one of the highlights and inspiring moment of my life.