Back To The Future: The Disruption Is Not What It Seems

Early promo picture of The DoorsI watched an old documentary about the 1960s band “The Doors” on one of the VH1 channels the other night and was struck by a PBS interview with the group in 1969. Jim Morrison had his full beard by then, and the band was on the downward arc of its short but influential career. There was a certain sadness in watching the interview, but it also contained revelatory messages for today.

Two things in this interview stood out. One, Morrison talked of the future of music and said that people like himself in the future would be able to make entire cuts of music “using just machines.” The comment was prescient and spoke of today’s reality in a way that I’d not heard expressed that long ago. Morrison was clearly on the outer edges of creative energy, and to hear him speak in such a way was gripping and profound.

Keyboardist Ray Manzarek also touched a note in talking about the difference between the energy (“the vibe”) inside one of their concerts and what happened when concert-goers went home. He bemoaned the lack of a way for people to sustain the connection they had during the concert and how, if such a thing was possible, it would change the world.

In John Markoff’s brilliant book What the Dormouse Said: How the 60s Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer, the essence of personal computing and the power of personal publishing are all found in what people like Morrison and, especially, Manzarek believed and had to say. The counterculture movement itself struck out against the authority of our institutions, and today, the chaos of the Web that such institutions feel is, in fact, a power grab by the the culture’s grassroots – a continuation, if you will, of that same energy.

Manzarek’s vision, for example, is now found in social media, where empowered people are now connected in ways they could not have imagined in the sixties. It’s about by-passing traditional methods of staying in touch and enabling the “change the world” concept promulgated by the era’s charismatic leaders. This is why what’s taking place today – the world’s second Gutenberg moment – is much bigger than most people can currently see.

The great thinkers of today – people like Kevin Kelly, Clay Shirky, Umair Haque, John Hagel, Jay Rosen, and many others – all seem to have been shaped by this same kind of thinking, and I believe it’s smart for us all to pay attention. The business disruptions of today, for example, are not simply “adjustments” such as we’ve seen in the past. They represent a great upheaval, revolutionary changes from convention, history and tradition that will shape new ways of doing things downstream. “If you think the disruption to newspapers was bad,” wrote Seth Godin, “wait until you see what happens to education.” It is in this environment that we must think about reinventing what we do, for we cannot cling to archaic beliefs and practices when the culture itself is being recreated.

For what it’s worth, “the Dormouse” is from Alice in Wonderland. What he said was “feed your head, feed your head, feed your head.” It’s good advice for today.

(Originally published in AR&D’s Media 2.0 Intel Newsletter.)

Comments

  1. “…an old 60’s band “The Doors”.

    i’ll have you know i just popped ~$200 for a pair of leather pants so my college son could “play” james douglas morrison for about 10 minutes during a college football game halftime.

    he spent hours arranging songs for the marching band to play, so i felt it was the least i could do.

    thanks.

    now i’m off to youtube to see if i can find that grace slick/jefferson airplane tune… it’ll be running through my head until i hear it in its entirety.

    damn good to see you’re back to writing, btw!

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