The Seven Ages of Computer Connectivity

Computer Age Information Age Shocked Telespheral Age Aquarian Age Transhuman Age Digital Age

Flush with Possibilities and Faced with Decisions


John F. Barber

Men and women gifted with extraordinary insight or persuasive abilities often envision the future structure of our world and share their visions. In no arena is this more true than that surrounding networked computer technology where the possibilities envisioned by futurists to store, retrieve, share, and make information, to entertain ourselves, and to communicate with others promise a world profoundly different than the one we currently inhabit. In the future, they say, we will be flush with possibilities and faced with decisions.

As teachers who use computer technology we have already faced many possibilities and decisions related to the way we and our students conceive of and utilize writing. And arguably, as the technology of computer connectivity continues to change, so will our notions of writing. As our notions of writing change, so will our notions of what constitutes writing topics, themes, and tropes, as well as the process of writing itself. Therefore, knowing something of the potential for change implicit in these future scenarios and how they may affect the teaching and learning of writing by affecting the world around us is both practical and appropriate.

This writing is an attempt to provide a brief overview of some future scenarios related to computer connectivity while at the same time pointing to the fact that many features of these scenarios are already part and parcel of our daily lives. In writing this overview I borrow from the notion of a geological "age" to denote a period of time during which something exists in a state or fashion or capacity significantly different than other periods of time. Out of whimsy I have settled on seven ages of computer connectivity. The Computer Age encapsulates historically similar technology developments and utilization themes to provide a useful mirror for predicting future developments. The Information Age evolves from decentralization and fluidity brought about by the ability to exchange information quickly and easily via computer connectivity. The Shocked Age promotes suffering from information overload and instills a sense of insecurity and disorientation as people sense their cultures rapidly changing through this ubiquitous information manipulation. In The Telespheral Age vast, interactive telecommunications networks reach into every corner of the globe and profoundly affect the ways we deploy energy and information. The Aquarian Age humanizes the more unsettling aspects of previous ages and promotes opportunities for the enlargement of human potential. Drawing on this enlargement of human potential and the opportunities for ubiquitous telecommunications, The Transhuman Age grapples with considerations of what it means to be human. Finally, The Digital Age predicts that the dominant parts of human interaction and communication will be encoded into computer instructions allowing us to facilitate interconnection and the personalization of information we send and receive.

In each of these ages interconnected and repetitive themes swirl and circle back and forth on each other. So, rather than interpreting what has already happened through a static and linear historical account I have attempted to produce a multilayered and multivocal linked and overlapping series of seven speculations on computer connectivity. Or, if you prefer the short version, you can jump straight to the conclusion.

"The Seven Ages of Computer Connectivity" (Introduction)
by John F. Barber