Digital Culture Now

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Image courtesy of Dana Mattocks.

We are digital people.

We think in interfaces, systems, organized complexity, code, interaction, behavior. We dream, write, design, build, and solve – and we do it all with unprecedented efficiency and speed, using exciting tools that organize information in new ways.

We inhabit a new kind of community, linked together in an information-rich atmosphere that is characterized by immediacy.

Our fragmented identities – wife, partner, child, mother, coworker, friend, frenemeny, citizen – are collapsed into one-dimensional social networking profiles. Many of us have multiple Twitter handles  or segment our personalities across different networks. The barriers between our professional and personal lives are crumbling, and our converging identities give us the chance to manufacture more authentic experiences. We wrestle with privacy issues and realize that privacy has never been as simple as we used to imagine it.

Frankly, we don’t really know if the Internet is making us smarter or dumber. But we know that it’s changing the way our brains work, the way we research and remember, the way we read and write. We’re optimistic, and we’re eager to explore and experiment.

Pop culture is increasingly important to our lives. We build tribes from it. At the same time, the knowledge of the ages resides at our fingertips, and we relentlessly search, combine, synthesize, and share without regard for provenance or pedigrees. Copyright – and our adherence to it – is evolving. We are confident that we can find ways to support artists and authors without penalizing sharing.

Media is moving from broadcast to conversation. Companies, government and organizations really can’t control the message anymore. Relationship building is central to branding, marketing, and public relations.

Emerging technology is lowering the barriers to entry for entrepreneurs and small businesses. Web services disintermediate entire industries and enable transactions between small businesses and individuals on a scale previously unimaginable. Transactions are limited only by the physics of moving around actual goods, and many items that used to physically exist are now downloadable. Technology has gone from being a vertical segment of the economy to a horizontal market that touches and mediates all aspects of everything.

We live in the age of the lean startup, enabled by cheap or free software and cloud services. Freelancers abound. Entrepreneurship has grown a very long tail. Social entrepreneurs are creating and managing ventures to solve social problems. We don’t check our personal passions, creative talents, or idiosyncrasies at the business door. We build businesses out of them. We market our selves, and that’s mostly a good thing.

Innovation is critical to business success – and not just innovative products or services: companies are being challenged to develop innovative business models and new ways to create and deliver value; non-profits and social change organizations are being challenged to network, share resources, and work outside their boundaries to solve complex social issues. Creative and interdisciplinary collaboration speeds all of this innovation.

Technology is the tool we use to solve all kinds of problems, but our expertise and knowledge extends way beyond technology. In the course of our work, we educate ourselves on diverse subjects. We become self-taught experts on human behavior, markets, foreign relations, healthcare systems. We are in a unique position to use a creative, interdisciplinary approach to solve problems.

An enormous number of people work in digital media: designers, developers, creatives, marketers, webmasters, community managers, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, bloggers, publishers – and more (of course). This is a powerful and amazing group: we create, manage, and market the technology tools we use and the digital content we read and consume.

It’s a privilege to be in this group. The technological, social, and economic forces that give us such unprecedented opportunities don’t grant equal access to everyone. We can help change that. Many of us talk about being the change we want to see in the world, but we know that we must use our talents, knowledge, and creativity to make change for others.

When we get together, dynamic stuff happens. We can feel the crackling in the air. This is excitement. It’s a feeling we find in our online communities, in our working groups, in our creative collaborations, and at conferences and events. This is ambient awareness, all amped up. This is the zeitgeist, the spirit of our time.

ZeitgeistNYC is about having adventures in the spirit of our time. We want to get more New York digital people together, more often. We’re in our silos and working for our clients too much. We should be connecting, creating, and solving interesting problems together more often. We don’t want more networking opportunities. We want more chances to share knowledge, make interesting stuff, and talk about business, technology, robots, and social changes. We want to grow.

We’re ZeitgeistNYC. We’re new.

— Freyja Gallagher & Tammy Oler

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