“A new breed of American has arrived on the scene,” Conley, a professor at New York University, declares in “Elsewhere, U.S.A.,” his compact guidebook to our nervous new world. Instead of individuals searching for authenticity, we are “intraviduals” defined by shifting personas and really cool electronics, which help us manage “the myriad data streams, impulses, desires and even consciousnesses that we experience in our heads as we navigate multiple worlds.” The denizens of our “Elsewhere Society,” Conley argues, “are only convinced they’re in the right place, doing the right thing, at the right time, when they’re on their way to the next destination. Constant motion is a balm to a culture in which the very notion of authenticity . . . has been shattered into a thousand e-mails.”
Conley looks at the social transformations that were created by technological change between the mid 20th century through today. Organization and individualism have given way to intravidualism, “an ethic of fragmented selves replacing the modern ethic of individualism.” Work, play, and everything in between are blurring into non-discrete moments of incoherentness. We’re going somewhere, but we do not know where. Then again, no matter where we go, there we are.
This has serious consequences for human capital development. Perhaps to better succeed in what appears to be a directionless society of busybodies, we need to create a New Individualism, and re-orient education for developing strategic leadership at the individual level? …for learning how to cope with increased chaos and ambiguity? …for knowing how to be more selective in how new technologies are used before the technologies use us?