What is Development in metamodern times?*

This is not a Simulacrum. Development is a late concept for a multi-, inter- and meta-connected society, and our former models are useless to depict how development works in a crisis world. The World is Multiconnected because the apparent interactions among countries are also relationships between individuals and organizations, showing multilevel interactions that Nationals models are not able to describe (Harvey, 2010). People are interconnected because the information infrastructures support any transformation in language, currency, time and space, exhibiting the flat dimension of the globalized world. (Castells, 2000) Culture is meta-connected because it oscillates between different poles, in a Platonic sense, is a movement between opposites and beyond them. It is the change characterizes the information flow of the network society. (Turner, 2011)

In this way, metamodernism offers a philosophical framework to reshape development in troubled times — although all time is turbulent for some society, now is problematic for global society. — Globalization force to push back the question that is developed, more than the rhetorical consensus. (Pieterse, 1998, p. 343) In this essay, I would like to show a development phenomenon that has been coinciding since approximately 2000 in different areas of the planet. Despite this, it is not recognized as development theory and is fundamental for a generation who drives its understanding of life quality inside a hyper-connected society. The focus is on how individuals, especially those denominated millennials, produce a new moment in human development. That development being [post]capitalist, can manifest on material and unmaterial life conditions. Traditional models of development are not taking into consideration these circumstances shared for the biggest labor workforce in the globe.

Changing the landscapes for a multilevel development.

Development is a contested concept since it appears in 1945 because from the beginning of this have arbitrary categories and assumptions. (Peet & Hatwick, 1999, p.3) After Bretton-Woods Agreement, some northern countries create new international institutions to concentrate on a kind of development: (World Bank, International Monetary Fund, among others). (Martinussen, 1997, p. 34) Development becomes a financial concept, originate several development institutions in the last 75 years, that mostly are banks.[1] These agencies classify nations as development or under development — and in other polite categories as high-income countries and mid-and-low-income countries) supported in global indicators — that themselves creates and maintain — to describe the quality of life, economic growth, and governance. They standardized to try to direct national development by the same path that North nations that are considered more favorable regarding economic growth, those who “casually” won the Second World War. (Halperin, 2013, p. 199) Although these institutions are trying to get over this distinction, the cultural differences between global north-south remain. (Khokhar & Serajuddin, 2015) How can we describe the life of a Siberia inhabitant with the same indicator as one in Kazan or St. Petersburg? Is the human development the same in Brasilia than in Rio de Janeiro? GDP, Gini, IDH, and Innovation Index, all of them fail in the same approximation to try to describe development: The national bias.

Despite a diversity of perspectives — modernism, structuralism, neo-dependency or sustainable development, among others — All of them enforce the optimization in economic growth of nations, considering the desirable equilibrium between market and states — In the case of sustainability, includes the environmental impact –. (Martinussen, 1997, p. 34) Governments and Industries have been had an exemplary role shaping the quality of life of their citizens in politically and economical ways. But, focus on nations is controversial, more over when market and states are now concepts under transition. Halperin describes extensively how economic history is misunderstood as national disputes and propose the idea of horizontal development, in a Marxist perspective of class. (Halperin, 2013, p. 222) But, the emergence of a new-wave of social movements around the world questions the legitimacy of governments, institutions, and quality of life. (Halperin, 2013, p. 225)

This world is on crisis — environmental, technological, cultural and economic — during the last 15 years. It seems this globalization 3.0 extends the limit of the possibility of the new generations, but also challenge with a global challenge to “try to save the world.” (Friedman, 2005, p. 264). Now, the inhabitants of the former colonies of “developed countries” are now part of a global framework for the exchange of information embodied as knowledge and infrastructures. Nowadays, some young inhabitants in Latin America, Africa, Middle East, South Asia and Pacific and Caribbean Islands express against the categories about development, obtaining similar life quality that other young people in New York or Paris. (Harvey,2010) How can they achieve, as a revelation for almost 500 years of colonialism, without being part of the economic elite? Understand these phenomena requires breaking the national perspective and focus on how digital economy is shaping to new interconnected networks of value in the first global generation of cyber inhabitants.

Interconnected Generation, Interconnected development

Diverse models of development can be attributed to different generations, in the ways that each one approximate to the labor phenomena (AMA, w/y). The silent generation (As pre-WWII inhabitants) support the paradigm of economic growth of their nations with hard work and strong family value. Baby Boomers was more related to modernization and structuralist co-existence, in import substitution and new post-war development institutions. The workforce of Generation X (born during 1965–1980) living as part of neoliberalism system around the world, and in some place, like China neo-Marxist development approach. And despite sustainable development is the central paradigm to Millennials could be a part, the thinking for this model was made previous to their born for Brundtland Commission (Butlin, 1989). But at the difference to previous three generations, Millenials can’t understand development as industrialization or production, as the central process. Due to the primary source of healthiness in the XXI century are information’s people as users, citizens, and consumers. In the network society, our information is the most valuable commodity, and internet is the new non-national landscape to exchange. (Niemer & Krauthaus, 1992; Taplin, 2017)

Sustainability as alternative development paradigm is right when focus in the systemic interactions in a biosphere, looking in several layers of values and participation, enhancing the role of the nature of human practice. (Martinussen, 1997, p. 43) But, is the immanence of an emerging new layer -cyberspace and technological networks- as an essential part of economic and cultural development. In this way, sustainability carries with the national bias of others development theories. Other alternative models of human development are global, but maintain the focus in macro economically vertical networks and relationships between domestic markets and governments. (Pieterse, 1998, p. 370) All of them are challenged for Digital and Knowledge economies.

The Network society upraises in the 90s started an international effort to increase and improve physical infrastructures to digital communication. In this way, when someone is part of this technological revolution diffusing the physical limitations of work, sharing a base of information and capabilities. (Castells, 2000. p. 693–696). Carlota Perez (2004) describe the economies constructed in the digital revolution have a the ‘key factor’ characterized by: “(1) relatively small and descending cost, (2) unlimited supply for all practical purposes, (3) potential to pervasive everything, (4) a capacity to reduce the costs and qualities of capital, labor, and products”. This network society interacts over the conception of cyberspace (Strate, 1999) where traditional understanding about ownership is contested and changing currently. (Hagen, 2017). Digital Economy is sustaining over this vital factor in the cyberspace, translating capitalism to immaterial landscapes. Begun with the expansion of Internet to civil society, also appears a digital citizen over a new geography is establishing a market of social, political and economic possibilities, not considered for traditional development and spaciality frameworks (Graham, 2011, p.212). In there, [post]capitalism flows under fewer barriers and apparently without delimitations. Any new development model should understand as the flux of information shapes the value and wealth in the global society.

Millennials are the largest generation in the human history. (Worldometer, 2017) Goldman-Sachs corporation defines them as part of technological globalization and economic disruption, with a different value set of their parents, expressed in how to understand property and exchange under “shared-economy” models. (Goldman-Sachs, w/y) The success of main technological firms results in the global market results in how Millennials interacts on cyberspace. They interest are close to wellness, environmental responsibility and active lifestyle, expressed in social compromise and participation, shaping online interactions. Is true that technological divide separate quality of life in people of the same generation. (Graham, 2011, p.217). In the case of Millennials, this gap intensifies, not only is economical ways but also as a knowledge and cultural fissure. (Friedman, 2005, p. 271). In this way, this essay emphasis in those millennials that are part of the networked society, which is at least half of them.

Considering the current information oligopoly in five main companies0, this is crucial. Alphabet (Google), Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple. (Taplin, 2017) Concentrates some of the biggest capital in the world, not only monetary but also in information. A more global extension should consider Samsung, Alibaba y Foxconn, among others. Is impressive how in the last decade the interconnected world become a property of some people, and states lose the monopoly of information of their citizens. In several cases, the size of these corporations surpassed the scale of many governments. Also, these organization plays a central role funding and encouraging projects to ITC4D (Information and Technology Communications for development), supporting several NGOs, Governmental and International projects about access and extension of digital infrastructures. One Example is how Facebook wants to connect everyone with their connectivity lab (Hempel, 2016) This increase the population connected, and the extension of their commodities and wealthiness.

This paradoxical relationship between information access and economic hegemonies for corporations is incomprehensible by the scope of this essay. But, is recognizable as a new interconnected scenario, shared by the values and practices of a generation throughout the world and that has transformed the forms of work and value in our societies. That situation increases the diversity of cultural discourses but homogenizes the living conditions of those who are part of the digital economy.

Development macroconnections for metamodern times

Carayannis (2014, p.4) proposes the concept of Cyberdevelopment to refer “a set of tools, methodologies, and practices that leverage ICT to catalyze and accelerate social, political and economic development. In other words, ICT enables a knowledge economy”. But the paradigm of knowledge economy from the early 2000s evolves into digital economies in the recent years (Gandilini, 2015, p. 13). In this way, knowledge economies are now part of the large digital machinery, where the users are commodities. But, how we can understand the cultural paradigm that this economy shape? Seth Abramson supports the idea that Metamodernism is a better way to understand the world in the digital age. (Abramson, 2016). He refers “Metamodernism seeks to collapse distances, especially the distance between things that seem to be opposites, to recreate a sense of wholeness that allows us to — in the lay sense — transcend our environment and move forward with the aim of creating positive change in our communities and the world.” (Abramson, 2014)

He refers “Metamodernism seeks to collapse distances, especially the distance between things that seem to be opposites, to recreate a sense of wholeness that allows us to — in the lay sense — transcend our environment and move forward with the aim of creating positive change in our communities and the world.” (Abramson, 2014)

This contested world is today mostly inhabitant for millennials, regarding populational cohort instead of national groups, follows the horizontal development proposal from Halperin (2007, p.551). Furthermore, define development in generational view could understand major streams of means of production — in this case, personal and collective information as a source of wealth. The individual behavior in an of [over]populated world is more accurate to describe the quality of life, and thus, levels of development than national indicators do. This contradiction between local and global, between personal and collective as proper of metamodernist times. In this perspective, economic growth turns only a part among others to characterize development, moving horizontally towards previous development frameworks.

Economically and culturally, the stage of cyber development shows how network society redefines power, knowledge, property, and cultural values towards a metamodern orientation. These concepts are balanced between under past definitions, reasserting their collective value under information paradigms. But, new questions emerge; Where power, wealth, and knowledge are in the network society? How companies and transnational corporation are shaping our worldview thought their value filters and information bubbles? What is the role of digital production and property in a landscape for information piracy? Is it necessary to become all Earth planet a connected zone? Who are the winners and the losers in the information for development? In all the case, market and state were overcome from these questions. We need to start to compare new kind of indicators to evaluate the spreading of this sort of development, due to be people-centered and geographically unlocated.

These transformations represent the primary challenge for political theories of development because the main digital companies have incredibly detailed information about all their users/goods. In this way, national socioeconomic surveys could be an interesting measure to compare but are limited because each nation has our considerations when building this instrument. To observe with more attention how age, labor, and technologies shape people’s development is required use a global paradigm. Metamodernism can depict the current stage of development and enforce international focus in responsible human development, facing the risks that network society is unfolding beyond any national boundary.

The labor becomes mostly thought digital. Whether managing a planting in Tsavo, controlling a production machine in Hangzhou or working as an academic in Montevideo, all kinds of services now use digital interfaces in the major cities of the world. Quality of life becomes flat for the global members of this digital community.

Millennials and next generations in world cities are the engines of these changes. High level of Educational Access — with large loans in those countries where education is not free -, more travels outside their city and countries- and more international networks -, more liberal diversity in the job and social relationships, among other conditions that are lived for a big proportion of this generation around the world. In this way, the economic pull is based more on their interest and networks, more than the national requirements. Despite these facts, our current data to understand the quality of life — and shared and unshared practice in a generation life quality — are insufficient to evaluate with adequate evidence the scope of this generational metamodern development.

Facing the future

This is not a Simulacrum and world is changing fastest than our understanding, although we have more information than ever in humanity epoch. But I have hope. Metamodernist paradigms aim to understand not only the digital approach to the global culture but also how jobs, corporations, and nations should be measure and describe the inequality and injustices between communities and populations. Development is a personal an ambivalent concept, with global and local extension in the cyberspace. Thus, cyber development applied to digital economies could be an option to decipher how are we living today. This confrontational issue is expanding digital economies and changing the meaning of development. Meanwhile, some extract the value of the information we generate togeher, to the wealth of a few. Millenial generation is a key factor in this dicotomic transformations. Finally, if development shapes a generation, an incorrect framework could reproduce the inequities of previous developing times until we face with an updated paradigm how human increase value inside the network society.

*This essay was originally written for the course GTD 501 “Global Technology and Development” in Arizona State University with the Prof. Laura Hosman, in Fall 2017.


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[1] A list about this fact could be consulted in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_development_aid_agencies