(Quick, before I forget, an aside about old age and forgetfulness: I recently told my mother that I was concerned because, since I turned fifty, I seem to be forgetting more things. My mother, who is nearly eighty, replied: "Don't be silly, I used to forget loads of things when I was only twenty.)But this category problem, this blurring of the lines, turns out to be a trend, a sign of the times, as described and discussed is the book Everything is Miscellaneous by David Weinberger, one of the authors of The Cluetrain Manifesto and a Harvard professor with a doctorate in philosophy (but a cheerful way of writing very accessible prose nonetheless). Here's some of the blurb from the book:
Human beings are information omnivores: we are constantly collecting, labeling, and organizing data. But today, the shift from the physical to the digital is mixing, burning, and ripping our lives apart. In the past, everything had its one place--the physical world demanded it--but now everything has its places: multiple categories, multiple shelves. Simply put, everything is suddenly miscellaneous.And everything includes us. Or at least me. Think about it like this: Try answering the following three questions with a single word:
1. Where are you from?
2. What do you do?
3. Where do you work?
Some people can, but many cannot. My Dad could: Coventry/Engineer/Dunlop. I cannot. As regards question one: I was born and raised in England, but that included a spell in Canada and I have now lived in America for longer than I lived in England. I live in Florida now but also spend quite a bit of time in New York. I lived for more than five years in Scotland (which is different from England) and another five years in San Francisco (which is different from everywhere).
Question two: What I do is information security consulting, and privacy consulting, and film producing, and real estate development, but mainly what I do is write.
Question three: Where I do this stuff is all over. Mainly my office at home but sometimes at a client's office and basically anywhere there is power and bandwidth, which includes planes and trains and automobiles, which are not anywhere but somewhere between two wheres.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying my life is cooler than my Dad's. And I'm exaggerating a little to make my case. My Dad led a very interesting life, having served as an engineer in the Royal Navy during and after World War Two. He worked in Canada and 'the States' for several years before settling in at Dunlop in Coventry (but always as an engineer). And he was exploring new options (in engineering) when his life was tragically cut short at 50. However, I think you get my point. And his father could easily have supplied one word answers, as could my maternal grandfather.
But wait a minute, is this 'personal miscellanitude' merely or solely a result of things going digital? What about increased educational opportunities, fewer borders, greater social and physical mobility, cheap air fares? These have all played a part, as have changes in the workplace ethos, like big companies undermining job security and some of them screwing employees out of pensions (my mother still gets a widow's pension check every month from Dunlop but I know a number of people my age who have already lost pensions).
What I think is happening is that forces at play in the physical world are complementing the effect of digitalization. Infinite varieties of order, individualization of world view, these are possible in the digital world and they are reflected in the real world. If this sounds vaguely familiar from philosophy classes, think Hegel and his use of the term 'reflection.' The digital world initially reflects the physical but evolves according to its own internal reason. And the physical world takes on aspects of the digital, at least in our perception of the physical. It is at least worth considering that we are "being digital" when we feel like previously unrelated things in fact go well together or previously related things have no compelling reason to stay that way.