Being part of Generation X is a condition of being caught between booming generations. But lately it feels like being caught between revolutions. Sure, we play a larger role than our size in the creation and adoption of the information revolution. But being at the beginning of a wave means we have less mastery of our technology than our immediate predecessors.
My Dad can fix more things than I can. He also has an ethic of repair, tinker and extend I can only aspire towards. He maintains and repairs cars with great enjoyment. A household renovation starts in one room and creeps in while we are at it fashion throughout the house. For him, no domain of popular mechanics are out of bounds. I am generalizing, but who hasn't marveled at the ability of our elders to leverage steel, structure and scale? A little knowledge of physics, the right tools, elbow-grease and some practice gives boomers and those before them the ability to build and fix most industrial technologies.
We find frustration with industrial era tasks, believe it may be best left to specialists, and try not to let it take away the almost primal satisfaction when garden actually grows or a door is well hung by chance.
An archetype of younger generations is whiz-bang IT support. Troubleshooting Internet access, finding a lost file and helping grandma's email configuration are supposedly activities for which we are uniquely qualified. But with information technology -- the rate of change, complexity and specialization of our technology by far outpaces our ability to master or maintain it.
Relative to the agricultural revolution, we just figured out crop-rotation and are in the process of entering the bronze age of tool development.
Tools are trending towards simplicity and accessibility. From HTML with view source to WYSIWYG to Wikis for horizontal information assembly. For vertical information assembly, scripting, services, components, visual programming and other techniques bring coding to new people while advancing the advanced.
Take gaming, for example, where the industry has bifurcated into game engine providers and content developers. The complexity and power of these engines has grown to the point where only masters own the domain, but level-editing capabilities let almost any user create their own worlds.
The point I am getting to is that Tim O'Reilly is really on to something with the Hacks meme. Sure, today its about hard core geeks messing with code. But the number of users as developers is increasing -- as consumers become participants in networks and collectively demand the right to self-organize when the market fails them. From the bottom-up, we are attempting to overcome the complexity we have created.
Jason picks up the rumor that O'Reilly may publish a magazine devoted to the hacking lifestyle -- Make. If John Battelle and Mark Frauenfelder are involved, it may actually translate hacking beyond the hacker set to fulfill the mainstream demand to co-create technology.
Previous revolutions had their simple progression of how practices are shared, skills are developed and how we build upon each other. Versions of practice are derived for even the youngest to participate. NetGens and the NextNext Generation need their Boy Mechanic to build Pop Pop boats.
What may be different from the industrial era archetype of mechanistic division of labor is the social practice of co-creation and pace of practice development we see in the open source, blogging, participatory democracy and other movements of the day.