The Information Age... or is it?
I recently read an article entitled “The Information Age is over; welcome to the Experience Age” (Wadhera, 2016). What is the Information Age that’s supposedly old news now, and what is this new “Experience Age”?
The world is at our fingertips. We can search on Google for just about everything and anything. The Information Age, as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is the period of time where information is widely and rapidly shared and is easily accessible. Technology facilitates this rapid dissemination to consumers of information and from consumers of information. Rote memorization is no longer required to function efficiently in the modern era. Technology facilitates cognitive offloading and the assumption is that people are now free to pursue endeavors more fruitful in nature. Read: they can go and learn all the things now. They can become knowledgeable in all the areas that they desire! The information is accessible! We are in the Information Age currently, however, there is a new age that has been aggressively looming: The Experience Age.
What is it? At its core, the Experience Age marks a time in which an experience, emotional or otherwise, is the outcome that is most valued. Storytelling is a prominent way in which information is conveyed. For example, the eLearning Guild just posted a blog and video of the 2019 Keynote about digital storytelling which can be intertwined with “actionable insights” (Thurston, 2019). Storytelling can paint a robust picture of an event. In the tech-savvy world, storytelling is most often achieved through video. Take, for instance, the mouth-watering videos produced by Tasty. Rather than providing you a dull, text-heavy recipe, Tasty wants to show you how to make the food. It works. They have over 31.4 million followers on just one social media platform alone.
Reality in the moment is paramount in the Experience Age. Accuracy of information is less of a focus and rather than researching information ourselves, we are beginning to allow someone else tell us the answer by experiencing it through their experiences. This “let me feel with you or let me feel for you” can be seen through accounts of shared experiences bringing strangers together. The bond formed from a shared experience is strong. These are most often seen after natural disasters when communities rise up and work together, the camaraderie formed in stressful environments like the military, or in times of new and difficult endeavors (e.g., a cohort in graduate school). Platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook Live, and to an extent, Twitter all facilitate rapid dissemination of experiences as information. Clearly, while the benefits can be seen, this also allows for the problem of “fake news.” For example, the anti-vaccination movement is garnering strength in numbers over the past several years, even after hundreds of peer-reviewed, scientifically-based articles have been published regarding the lack of a link between autism and the MMR vaccine (Rao & Andrade, 2011). What is causing consumers of information to favor one source of information over another? Is it the strong emotions elicited through the prolific sharing of experiences?
It is said that the Information Age was marked by the massive collection or storage of information flooding in from all directions. From a social standpoint, users updated others via a “status”, which was quite static, mostly words, maybe a few emojis or gifs at that point. Now, a large percentage of users update others via a temporary, short video or picture, an instantly consumable snippet of their lives. The “highlight reel” if you will. The temporary part is, I think, the most important aspect here in the Experience Age. The “products” being produced by users are fleeting, momentary, and they are incredibly efficient at sparking strong emotional responses from others because they are “real.” They are relatable and believed to be true (hence my quotes around “real”) because they are actually happening to real people!
We must always use our powers for good and not evil. The Experience Age, with the rise of powerhouse social media platforms (e.g., Instagram), gives a voice to those who may not otherwise have one, provides support in far reaching places to those who are lost, and empowers individuals to pursue entrepreneurial endeavors whereby they might not have considered the idea. We are no longer bound by the “static-ness” of statuses. We can live on the internet, leveraging instant and moment-by-moment updates through either short-lived videos or 280 characters. Now for my academic, scientific brain to have a moment here. What does this do for learning? QIC’s very own CEO – Dr. Jennifer Murphy, was just in Norway at the Nordic ADL Conference where members from Advanced Distributed Learning discuss the modernization of learning among other areas of interest. What does this so-called Experience Age do to the modernization of learning?
How can we utilize this shift to fuel peoples’ desire for facts and for information that will lead to the acquisition of knowledge and skills? How can we leverage current and future tools of Experience to better humanity? It is time for a paradigm shift, and we need to be adaptable in order to thrive.
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Wadhera, M. (2016). The information age is over; welcome to the experience age. TechCrunch. Retrieved from https://techcrunch.com/2016/05/09/the-information-age-is-over-welcome-to-the-experience-age/
Thurston, B. (March, 2019). Digital storytelling doesn’t have to be boring. Learning Solutions Conference & Expo, Orlando, FL. Retrieved from https://www.elearningguild.com/conference-archive/index.cfm?id=9710
Martens, B., Aguiar, L., Gomez-Herrera, E., & Mueller-Langer, F. (2018). The digital transformation of news media and the rise of disinformation and fake news. Digital Economy Working Paper 2018-02; Joint Research Commission Technical Reports.
Rao, T. S. S., & Andrade, C. (2011). The MMR vaccine and autism: sensation, refutation, retraction, and fraud. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 53(2), 95-96.
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