The Connected Society

A few commentators have focused on Singapore as an intelligent island that has been developed through modern technocapitalism. Singaporeans have ready access to computer technology, and IT has penetrated many aspects of their society. The country has a unique culture, and seems to be relatively peaceful.

Recommended Reading (PDF): Intelligent Island Discourse: Singapore’s Discursive Negotiation With Technology

This has led some to wonder whether or not the Singaporean model of development is the direction other societies may take in the future. One could also use the Singapore example to show how people become peaceful when they have connections that they don’t wish to sever. This is true even when the connections are digital.

That’s not to say that Singapore doesn’t have any problems. Where there are humans, there will be problems…always. But the country’s success is often cited in journal articles discussing the theory of technocapitalism and is at least worthy of further examination/discussion. These principles will probably vary for each society due to customs, traditions, history, etc. Nevertheless, the idea that building connections lessens social deviance is a valid theory. Most people will avoid ruining their lives when they have a good thing going for them in the interest of self-preservation. Since technology is helping people to build connections at a rate far beyond anything in prior history, most individuals are likely to cause trouble when their actions are spotlighted (or perhaps even predicted with enough data).

This is one reason the connected society may be a good thing. Take away criminal acts and society benefits greatly. On the other hand, with a truly connected society (I’m not talking about Facebook here…but REAL connectedness), invariably there will be increased governmental monitoring.  Whether people are willing to accept this in exchange for a more peaceful world and greater efficiencies…well, things will likely have to get much worse before this ever happens.

  • I read all the articles you linked to about Singapore, but I still couldn’t get a feel for what their society is like. It’s like we think the ancient Greeks were all philosophers because the ancient Greeks we know are Socrates and Plato. We are a connected society, but I’m not sure how much it helps us.

    I don’t know if networking makes us know each other better or promotes less violence. Our society is quite connected, yet it’s very polarized.

    • Jason Carr

      All valid points Jim. I’m not yet convinced that connectivity is the answer to the world’s woes. I think this is an interesting study but far more empirical data would have to be released before I’d ever buy into this one completely.

      Astute observation on the violence issue as well. Another reader commented on this on Google+ earlier…well, the social deviance part. I’ll be the first to admit that I couldn’t find any in-depth research to back up this claim other than what was alluded to in my research on Singapore. It seems logical in a sense (hence the reason I threw it out there) but as for accuracy, I think it’s speculative at best.

      I, like you, agree that our society is highly polarized and doubt very much that any level of connectivity, short of constant citizen monitoring, would ever have a huge impact on violence levels in our society. I think there are far better emerging alternatives than this to achieve decreased violence but I did find this report fascinating nonetheless.

      • I do wish there was some way to use the net to really get to know another country. Singapore sounds fascinating, but each article I read from your links made me think their society is too diverse to grasp. And that might be true of all societies. We like to think we’re all Americans, but there might not be a typical American.

        And technology might be homogenizing all cultures, so each as the same percentage of personality types.

        I wonder if they could expand Google’s Streetview and Maps, so it would be possible to virtually travel around another country, but also let us go into buildings and see what’s happening.

        • Jason Carr

          That’s moving toward the level of connectivity I think this study is alluding to. We’re moving in that direction…I’m not sure where the end of the road is though.

  • I’m intrigued by the idea that increased connectivity could decrease social deviance. Jim makes a good point that networking, by itself, doesn’t appear to make us more peaceful or wise as a society. High-quality, one-on-one connections, though, are excellent for building strong communities and creating feelings of shared responsibility.

    If that’s the case, though, Singapore might be successful as much because of its geographic concentration and “old-school” connectedness as for its networking infrastructure. I’d be very interested to see studies comparing Singapore pre- and post- information age, or comparing Singapore with similar developed nations.

    Much to ponder!

    • Jason Carr

      I agree Scott. Not sure what will come out of these types of studies in the future but I’m hopeful that some bright people will put together some larger studies and data sets.

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