October 11, 2005
Welcome to the Conceptual Age
Let me provide a long quote from the end of Pink's essay:
If the Industrial Age was built on people's backs, and the Information Age on people's left hemispheres, the Conceptual Age is being built on people's right hemispheres. We've progressed from a society of farmers to a society of factory workers to a society of knowledge workers. And now we're progressing yet again - to a society of creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers, and meaning makers.
But let me be clear: The future is not some Manichaean landscape in which individuals are either left-brained and extinct or right-brained and ecstatic - a land in which millionaire yoga instructors drive BMWs and programmers scrub counters at Chick-fil-A. Logical, linear, analytic thinking remains indispensable. But it's no longer enough.
To flourish in this age, we'll need to supplement our well-developed high tech abilities with aptitudes that are "high concept" and "high touch." High concept involves the ability to create artistic and emotional beauty, to detect patterns and opportunities, to craft a satisfying narrative, and to come up with inventions the world didn't know it was missing. High touch involves the capacity to empathize, to understand the subtleties of human interaction, to find joy in one's self and to elicit it in others, and to stretch beyond the quotidian in pursuit of purpose and meaning.
Let me pull out two shorter passages. First, Pink writes we're becoming "a society of creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers, and meaning makers." This "becoming" "involves the ability to create artistic and emotional beauty, to detect patterns and opportunities, to craft a satisfying narrative, and to come up with inventions the world didn't know it was missing."
I think this is good news for professional writers. This is the career you want, n'est pas? This is what you are being prepared to do: to recognize patterns and to create discourse to intersect and affect those patterns. This is the fundamental task of rhetoric. Let me say that differently. Entering the Conceptual age means:
1. Cultural Analysis: read your situation, recognize the patterns in culture.
2. Invention: be creative--address the needs/wants, concerns, issues that you seeing brewing around you.
3. Audience awareness: empathizing with your audience, connecting with them on emotional, ethical, logical, and cultural levels.
4. Shaping your message/text to the situation: recognizing patterns-what interests people, what they find convincing, how your audience speaks, what catches their attention.
When you take together the development of your creative abilities in Creative Writing classes, your understanding of technical and professional writing genres, your growing knowledge of new media modes of communication, and your general concept of rhetorical theory, you should be off to a good start in the Pink's "Conceptual Age."
Of course, a BA just gives you a starting point. Entering the Conceptual Age does seem like it will require taking more risks that those expected of the Information worker, just as the information worker took more risks that the factory worker (and the factory worker more risks than the farmer).
Posted by Alex Reid at October 11, 2005 10:05 AM
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