Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Reaching Back to the Past in a Time of Flux

Storytelling has very much been on our minds. In a recent talk to some students at SF State University we'd proposed it is the essence of account planning. Of course, its roots are altogether more human, for storytelling is a crucial cultural mechanism, vibrantly alive today in the digital age of Facebook updates and tweets, of Flickr and blogs.

This latest social media initiative by Virgin on Facebook strikes an appropriate chord with the times, not just because of its invitation to be part of a global village (Marshal McLuhan anyone?) but through its promotion of Elders.

Elders are a timely idea for two reasons:

First, it affirms the idea that there is value to the opinions of generations that precede us. The elderly have become significantly marginalized in US society, not so much due to intent but nonetheless through a shift over time. Retirement communities have removed them from the mainstream and deny us an opportunity to learn from the richness of their experience.

The second reason we think the idea of Elders is timely is because the term harkens back to an earlier time of storytelling, in which their knowledge was shared at the gathering around a communal fire. For sure, it was a time when life expectancy was half what it is today! But like the campfire itself, there is a simplicity, an enduring warmth about the intimacy of physical (rather than distributed) connectedness.

We believe this yearning is in direct response to what confronts so many people today: the contradictions and ambiguity, the uncertainty of extremes, the fragmentation and convergence and of the deeply unsettling flux, one in which the old rules have already given way and nothing has yet has emerged to replace them. We'd say that yearning for 'old ways' for a former time is not isolated. Like the emergence of artisanal character in the world of consumer goods in recent years, it is a response to it. A way of coping with it. Until sureness should return underfoot, there shall be more of it to come.

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