on global citizens and avatars

A global citizen is not the one that travels the globe rushing from one destination to the next at the furious pace its business demand, but the one that roams the roads of a city or the world open to the opportunities that serendipity will bring, architecting with each moment a fulfilling life devoted to creating value for the communities he touches, combining his skills with the resources available. Such a nice maxim for any traveller, you must be thinking.

But as much as we fantasize about travelling the world and becoming that global explorer, we are mostly driven by rituals. We go to school or work following the same route every day, we meet with more or less the same people and exchange in average the same rehearsed words. We like the little thrills that the modern hyper-connected world gives us, but we end up “friending” all the same 150 people we’ve known our entire lives. We like the detachment of “following” a few intellectuals or celebrities as there is no effort on our end but panic if a random stranger talk to us on the street. In the long run, we find ourselves surrounded by too many comfortable mellow relationships that are too kind to shake us a little bit and push us higher.

As isolated as may feel in a world of 7 billion people, there is one hero that is surging ahead, thriving on openness and mastering all the skills learned through three or four generations of social networks: our avatar. That smiling, fearless, handsome self-portrait not afraid of making up a few stories to find a place in the collective streams of strangers (the more the better), using the 8-bit equivalent of a grave-voice to teach everyone else life-lessons and revealing beauty in the mundane (yes, that same scene we saw at every commute for years). This alter-ego has found its place in our real-world, projecting our deepest and most sacred thoughts onto a canvas that looks more like a matrix-esque thumbnail composition that exudes personality. Our personality.

And now that our digital avatars feel at easy out there, broadcasting 24/7 on our behalf, are all of sudden running into each other without the caution characteristic of their masters. We call it serendipity in our world, to them it may be algorithmic association or visual coherence, but whatever their secret, it is working. They are now assembled in entire genres and sub-cultures that we barely knew existed, not unlike artisans of a forgotten medieval craft.

And now, for their final movement, they are about to teach us a lesson: how to go back to our tribal ways, connecting with those whose avatars have brought down the walls of anonymity in the name of creating meaningful connections that will rescue our communities from the apathy of routine.



  1. architecting communities « Global Culture - January 26, 2012

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