Can Web Design Save the World?
Short Version: Can web design save the world? I bloody well hope so, because we need saving. If all people who give a damn can talk and act together, we may be able to replace a lot of societally suicidal behavior with systems and actions that help all of us help each other.
Business is going very well for the Agaric Design Collective, but it doesn't take a trained anthropologist to look around the United States and know a lot of people aren't getting the opportunities they need in life.
Then there's the whole world, and it's clear we have a global economic system that is failing humanity on many basic levels.
And then there's the economic and environmental evidence that even the current level of lousiness is unsustainable.
Forgive me from quoting extensively from a recent article by Robert Jensen that says this better than I can:
Hard times are on the way, coming sooner than most of us expected, and we're not ready for them.
[F]or all its affluence and military power, the United States is in many ways a society in collapse. On all fronts -- politically, economically, culturally and most important, ecologically -- we are in trouble. We live in an increasingly callous culture that exploits sexuality and glorifies violence; embedded in a house-of-cards economy built on orgiastic consumption, deepening personal and collective debt, and an artificially inflated dollar; at the end of an imperial era that is grinding to a disastrous demise -- and, as if that weren't enough, looming behind all those crises is the recognition of the consequences of humans too-long ignoring the unraveling ecological fabric that makes life possible.
That's the bad news.
Here's the worse news: In this country, we do not have the cultural, economic, or political institutions in place to deal with these cascading crises.
Here's the even worse news: We don't have a lot of time left to build the institutions we need.
If one agrees with this view of the world to any degree, it seems to me there are two options for those of us with privilege.
1. We can seal ourselves off in gated communities (at the personal and/or the national level) with the highest walls and sharpest razor wire we can afford, hunker down with what we have acquired, and hope that somehow the collapse will be far enough off (in time and/or geography) that it won't touch us. Or,
2. We can get to work on making the human connections necessary to build the institutions we need to deal with what some call "the great correction" that is coming.
Much more in the full article at ZMag.org.
Weighing in for option number two, web sites will need to play a part in organizing people in drastically different ways, on the macro scale, from the way we presently are told what to do.
Because we mostly are told what to do. Major decisions about how our food gets to us, the options we have for transportation, even the use of land in our towns, seems to be structurally, institutionally out of our control. And we are the lucky minority getting a grossly disproportionate share of the world's resources! This comes to us, however, not as much greater power over our own lives, but mostly as pre-wrapped baubles manufactured and marketed to us with the de jure goal of enriching an already obscenely wealthy elite.
This system, even if it could continue at its present level of functioning indefinitely, does a great disservice to all of us in the form of our own and others' lost opportunities to create, serve, build, and enjoy with and for one another.
The internet, especially with more and more people around the world potentially gaining access to it, such as through the One Laptop Per Child initiative, has a great chance to make possible a meaningful level of self-rule on a wider scale than ever before in history.
People will be able to share the choices that affect us collectively, rather than ceding the choices to elites. This loss of our rightful power over our own lives has always been resisted– and has always proved terrible in human cost.
All of us are People Who Give a Damn about ourselves, about our family and friends, and about all of humanity, too-- we want good things for everyone, when we are most honest and at peace with ourselves.
For us all to make the decisions that matter in our lives, so that bad choices aren't made for us and without our consent or even knowledge, we need practical ways to communicate directly to each oher but on a mass scale.
PWGD.org is our bid for making many-to-many communication real, and used by enough people, in time to make our own choices to save the world.
P.S. The literally-minded will be glad to know that the planet itself is fairly safe from destruction.