There's a famous 1971 song*by Gil Scott-Heron that coined the phrase “the revolution will not be televised.”
Most interpret this to mean that action originates from motivations within. In Gil's words “The first change that takes place is in your mind. You have to change your mind before you change the way you live and the way you move. The thing that’s going to change people is something that nobody will ever be able to capture on film.”
Well, developing one’s internal motivations might have had more limited scope during a time with two or three (color!) TV channels with newscasters as gatekeepers to a precious subset of information and primary sources disseminated by typewriter, paper and pencil, telegram or phone call. But as we ease slowly back into post-pandemic socialization these days, when screen hours on average exceed sleep hours and our apps and media sources transition from nouns to verbs (Skype, Zoom, Youtube, Google, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok) it’s fair to say our hive minds (indeed, our brains make decisions like a swarm of bees) are fired up not only by our consumption of what is “televised” on our screens, but by our production of what we “televise” or share with others as well.
Look at what's happened recently in the Ukraine. Volodymyr Zelenskyy took on a very different approach in creating a feeling for the plight of his people. Rather than rely on the usual press conference or party-line propaganda, he took to the streets sending live "selfie" style broadcasts and speaking from his bunker to anyone who had a certain app, phone or laptop, including fellow folk in Russia. This caused his reach to come across as authentic and true. People felt for him, not his speech writer or adviser but for him in all his vulnerabilities as father, son and leader and in that sense, he controlled the narrative that tugged at many hearts. From common working folk to billionaires, the family next door, even kids at lunch time speaking freely in our school - they met his eyes with theirs and maybe they didn't understand all the words he said, but by the memes and media produced in support, a good number seemed to understand what he meant because they related to the words he didn't say with his eyes, his voice, his hands.
For sure, all the concerns with the ease of swiping through a seemingly omnipotent web stay valid, and with the on and off isolation wrought by our shape-shifting post-Covid reality, we perhaps begrudgingly appreciated how media and tech allowed us to relate better and more efficiently as humans. But there are other powerful silver linings at play. With each digital “relic” we produce and consume, whether for private or public gain, we are unseating previous pathways of interacting with our environment and each other, resulting in the most powerful alteration of our place in it all, the revolution of recognising our agency as it uploads in blue light before our eyes.
This web-like reach we’ve been afforded challenges us to flex new brain muscles in commerce and communication. We cannot just think in terms of words in 11 pt font on a page anymore, we need to start thinking in terms of visuals, animations, camera angles and effects, all the best ways to engage. And our kids are fast becoming masters of this too. What might have once been a conversation at the dinner table for an allowance increase from my teenager became a formal slide deck with narrative and visual format that I could swear was taken right from The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs.
There’s a different literacy game in town and if we once groaned at the draw of TikTok or SnapChat, then we ignored the reality that apps like these have successfully disrupted the centuries-old tradition of what it means to be “literate.” For the first time, literacy proficiency transitioned from the flat field of the blank page to a dynamic, complex and multi-dimensional terrain with layers of ways to get your point across or tell a story. Ask Analog Me to write a paper or an article- I can do that but there’s a whole level of rigor and set of fluencies needed to create a video essay or a self-produced musical which are beyond my abilities yet are far more relevant. Because it is more engaging, producing media content has all the implications of reaching the “masses” i.e. being accessible to a wider range of people. Some might say it’s just a sign of the times, but what I see is the real revolution that we recognise and finally acknowledge our inherent neural diversity even in the “academic” arena- brains don’t just all want to read or communicate in text. They thrive from hearing, seeing, experiencing information in layered dimensions. Maybe the kids started it, but it’s about time in our history as a species that our tech caught up with such a powerful truth and acceptance about ourselves and how we learn and communicate. How much more revolutionary can our thinking finally get?
*Actually it’s more like a spoken word poem over music which is why many people say that Gil is the “grandfather” of rap.
When we couldn’t gather for assemblies due to Covid, we produced the TIDE Show as a way to make sure everyone was on the same page with our Learner Goals. Here’s an episode with a special cheerful message from all staff at the very end.