The Age of Participation

When I first began writing and publishing my essays, it followed a period of cultural study that led me to the conclusion that we were at the dawning of the Age of Participation. It’s one of the key concepts of my view of postmodernism/postcolonialism, and I always develop a warm smile when thoughts that I believed were original at the time begin to show up elsewhere. As I’ve posted before, this is a part of touching the unbroken web, and I wouldn’t trade it for all the money in the world.

In watching a documentary on the Doors the other night, John Densmore made a statement about playing some nights at the Whiskey A‑Go Go in Los Angeles during the late 60s, where the band really got their break. Densmore said there were some nights when it was magical, “and nobody owns that.” He was describing touching the unbroken web, something all artists have felt at one time or the other.

So when I read or hear about others speaking of an “age” or “period” of participation, I can’t run out and scream, “Hey, you’ve stolen that from me!” All I can do is rejoice that I was privileged enough to “see” the concept as others have and do.

Below is a must-view video from of a speech by Clay Shirky at this year’s Web 2.0 conference. I’m not suggesting that I’m in his league in terms of intelligence or extemporaneous speech, but listen to the absolute brilliance of his experiences with the unbroken web, especially the epiphany with his four-year old daughter.

The Industrial Age is another way of describing the era of cultural modernism, and I agree with Shirky that what we’re witnessing today — participating in today — is something brand new and that the future is very bright as a result of it.


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