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Information & the Way We Live Part 3

April 15, 2011 - Ernest Hohmeyer
How we use information and how much time we spend on it as a community, a business or as an individual may not always be effective or healthy.

Over the last two weeks we have been discussing the development of information historically and how it was used. Our world today filtered in many ways through the internet, is changing all aspects of our life.

As parents we may lament “things were different when we were kids.” I think I even heard my parents say that of their parents. It seemed when I was growing up here, my parents biggest beef with me and my friends was getting us to come back inside for lunch or dinner. That, and my mother cussing over our dirt-filled clothes! Our fun was exploring the woods and playing pick-up baseball games.

Now, I am constantly trying to devise a fair strategy for my 3 kids in terms of how many hours a day we let them use the computer, how often should they text, what video games are appropriate and are they really doing homework or on Facebook?

We have become a world of information and I am not sure it’s all good. How many times when you are driving do you see the other driver on the phone? How many times have I reached for the phone? Or, see people walk the street looking down and not at life around them, checking their latest messages?

Even Tapscott and Williams in their book "Macrowikinomics Rebooting Business and the World" that we discussed last week on the new opportunities the internet provides, acknowledge that not everyone is totally on board. Referring to Jaron Lanier a “forerunner in virtual reality” who was chosen in 2010 by Time magazine as one of the “most influential people in the world,” they talk about his book “You’re not a Gadget.” Lanier is referenced by Tapscott and Williams about being concerned with the “hive’ mentality of the web that emphasizes the crowd over the individual, and is changing what it means to be a person.” The digital age has “demeaned interpersonal interaction” through fragmentary, impersonal communications” citing “anonymous blog comments and video pranks” according to Tapscott and Williams reference to Lanier’s book.

As we become more sedentary for many reasons, our time spent with information and communication being only one of them, there is a growing concern about our health. In Men’s Health in an article “The Most Dangerous Thing You’ll Do All Day” by editor Bill Phillips an interesting point of view is espoused. They cite "Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise" where “Scientists at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana analyzed the lifestyles of more than 17,000 men and women over about 13 years, and found that people who sit for most of the day are 54 percent more likely to die of heart attacks.”

The article concludes concerning how we “think about fitness.” The argument here is that there is a “tendency to segment our lives—work, home, and downtime. Exercise falls into the last category, something we squeeze into our busy schedules when possible. But if you stop thinking about exercise as an activity, and instead think of it as a lifestyle, it’s easier to make healthy choices throughout the day.”

There is no doubt the information age has brought new opportunities and challenges. The other day I was watching a program (ha! being sedentary!) and how a modern country was quoted as having moved from an industrialized economy to an information based one. I got the feeling they were proud of this accomplishment as if manufacturing was the economy of yesterday and information may be a key economic catalyst of the future.

What does all of this mean to how we position our small rural communities and our even smaller businesses? It seems you can’t pick up a magazine or a book today that does not give you the sense that you may need to change the way you might have been thinking – just yesterday. Harvard Business Review recently headlined “Social Media and the New Rules of Branding.” Their cover page is filled with “Why You Need a New-Media ‘Ringmaster,” and “You’re Spending Your Money In All the Wrong Places.” The book the “New Rules of Marketing & PR” opens up with “The Old Rules of Marketing & PR Are Ineffective…” and Innkeeping Quarterly talks about “smart innkeepers are keeping pace with today’s social media evolution.” Finally the book “101 Ways to Promote Your Tourism Business Web Site” mentions how “things have changed dramatically over the past several years in terms of Web design and development methodology.”

How we position ourselves may be changing rapidly. It may not be valid anymore to just promote your community or business by telling people who you are, what you do and what you offer.


What are we supposed to say then?

We will look at some of the new theories next week.


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