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Mrinal Kanti Rai

The Purist

The next wave

When Gutenberg invented the printing press in 14501, it was the first wave of democratization of knowledge. It shifted the arduous process of making manuscripts manually to an automated process, allowing any work to be copied any number of times at speeds never seen before. The change was important not just from a technology and science perspective but also from a sociological perspective because it freed society from the shackles of knowledge apartheid.

Almost 500 years later, the second wave came in the form of television. It mystified viewers so much so that some of them are still mystified. It simulated reality and created a sense of virtual reality even before we knew little about the concept of virtual reality.

In early 1990s came the third wave when the Internet ventured into the public space. It was the extension of the first wave. It was a step that embarked everyone, who was connected through this ‘network of networks’2, into a never-­‐ending journey. The advent of the Internet preceded by the fall of Berlin wall 3 marked the era of globalization. We, officially, entered into the Information Age with a new space at our disposal called ‘Digital Space’. In fact, the more popular term is ‘Digital Age’. Apart from many other things, globalization was also democratization of geographical space.

There was something else that happened during this period. Mobile communication mushroomed, blurring the barriers of distance and rupturing the sense of time further. This was the fourth wave that democratized communication technology.

In the early 21st century came the fifth wave, the rise of online social networks. This was democratization of democracy. Every time you write a post, upload a photograph, comment on a post, express your views or dissent your voice you make your presence felt not just through votes but also by participating in the dialogue of democracy. Social networks reveal the hidden and interesting side of the most silent but perhaps the most fascinating talent within your circle of friends, your colleagues, and your acquaintances. In fact, it reacquainted you with many of your acquaintances and introduced you to a few of your friends’ different selves. It was an act of introduction of your multiple of identities. I am a son, a husband, a friend, a UX professional, a colleague, a Philanthropist, a reader, a movie buff, a digital native and also a member of a social network.4

The rise of networked society5 is an evolution, to say the least. This is different than the rest of innovation in Internet space for various reasons. To say it's a parallel society is to oversimplify its existence as well as its impact. In this world of hyper-­‐connectivity, social networks created a new space, redefined the notions of equality and inequality, solved many problems but also hurled many questions for us to answer.

I do acknowledge that there may be or perhaps there are many other significant inventions and innovations that changed the whole human race forever but perhaps to me these five waves are critical because they redefined the idea of human existence.

I am observing, exploring and sensing changes happening around us. I am trying to predict and answer the question that fascinates me as a human being, as a student of science and sociology and as a UX professional. No donuts for guessing the question- what will be the next wave?

  1. Wikipedia
  2. Friedman,T.L (1999),The world is 10 years old: The Lexus and the Olive Tree, Anchor books(Random House)
  3. Friedman,T.L (1999),The world is 10 years old: The Lexus and the Olive Tree, Anchor books(Random House)
  4. Sen,A (2006) Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny (Issues of Our Time), New York, W. W. Norton
  5. Castells, Manuel (1996, second edition, 2000). The Rise of the Network Society, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture Vol. I. Cambridge, MA; Oxford, UK: Blackwell

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