Sunday, November 12, 2006

Tagged Not Sorted

One of the insights of The Long Tail is that part of what enables consumers to access the goods on the long tail is that an item can be under several categories in an online catalog. If this post were in a physical book, we would have to pick one category and file it under there -- is it "business" or "technology?" Online, several Google keyword searches will find it, even some that I might never have thought of. A physical good can reside in one physical location, but virtual goods can be accessed from many paths.

It occurs to me that we're moving more toward this model for people, too, and have been for some time. We identify with several groups, but we are unwilling to let any of them define us. Where we live doesn't say as much about you as it used to. There's a standing joke here in St. Louis that when two people who grew up in St. Louis meet each other they ask each other where they went to high school, since that knowledge can yield a host of other information. That will probably not be the case going forward.

We're not even willing to let one association define us for moments in time. Technology has allowed our work and personal lives to bleed into each other. Who's reading this post form work? Who will be available for their workplace to call them after they've gone home for the day? We are "tagged"-- we need not be on the "work" shelf for our coworkers to find us; we need not be on the "home" shelf to deal with personal issues.

But there is one association that some people are willing to sort themselves by rather than be tagged by, and that is religion. I think at the heart of many of the conflicts right now is that it is hard for people who do this to understand people who don't. Many conservative Catholics don't understand how a politician could call himself a pro-choice Catholic. Secularists don't understand why a religion would have any bearing on what policies a legislator would pursue. And we all wonder about how religion can drive people to do things like the World Trade Center attacks.


WikiFray said...

p.s. John: Let me know if/when you convert Man Bites Blog to beta so I can add the atom to the sidebar.