As the last edition of InQuire this decade, our executive team give their thoughts on the 2010s and its implications for the future.
History made, George Knight
As significant as the 2010s may seem to many contemporaries, how the future will perceive our time is debatable. Ultimately, it will be the judgment of historians, researchers, and writers that will colour the reality of our world.
Historians of the future will be faced with a substantial surplus of evidence. Although initially, this may seem beneficial, the methodologies required to organise and interpret this wealth of information will be challenging. The abundance of mass media, social media, audio, videography and more will necessitate organisation. As search engines, today are designed with strict algorithms to correlate and present information, the same may be required for historical evidence. These restrictions will pose a challenge to censorship. Will organising and prioritising this raw data suppress information that today is considered fundamental?
With evidence ranging from government documents to tweets, interpretation will also require an understanding of the individual experience in the 2010s. It will be easier to contextualise in the future as individual experiences will be recorded in abundance. The challenge, however, will increase as contextual understanding will be required for everything. The means of production of information, that is social media posts, etc. are within public hands; rather than educated groups. This will necessitate an understanding of numberless variables, rather than an understanding of limited groups which have coloured human history before.
The 2010s, like any other historical period, will be defined by the views and methods of future historians. As historian and political theorist E. H. Carr wrote in 1961 ‘[we] achieve our understanding of the past, only through the eyes of the present.’
The 2010s could be subject to periodisation. Already today some argue the ‘post-Brexit’ era is separate from pre-2016. Who is to say that future historians may not look at the 2010s in the same way? It may be that Britain stands upon the precipice of economic disaster in 2020, and the 2010s could be the final years of prosperity. Or, it could be that future historians will place the decade within the periodic framework of ‘technological growth’.
It would be a mistake to assume that historians of the future will note the 2010s as significant. As revolutionary as smartphones, Mmars space travel and social media may seem to us, innovations span time far beyond their impetus. We can only hope that those in the future find relevancy in our decade, then may the reality of the 2010s be thoroughly examined.
Politics of identity, Bill Bowkett
Every decade has its defining qualities. The 80s and the ‘Cold War’, the 90s and the ‘Third-Way’, and the 2000s and the ‘War on ter- ror’. In a decade littered with scan- dals, antitrust cases, and electoral upsets, the 2010s will be remem- bered as a decade of tremendous change, as ‘identity’ took centre stage. From Donald J. Trump and the Brexit, to Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn, populism saw a widespread surge, reasserting cherished national identities and challenging the establishment. In convergence with intersectionality – different identities, from LGBT+ to BAME people addressing issues of marginalisation – taking a formative role in public life, polarisation in- creased and divisions among society exasperated. Whilst imperfect and masked by a shadowy global oper- ation involving big data (question- ing the fairness of future elections), our democracy has proven itself to be resilient. Protests have given a voice to those with no platform or privilege, emphasising issues which politicians have failed to grasp. Ex- tinction Rebellion, For our Future’s Sake, #MeToo, Merzhir Serzhin and other movements have exercised their civil liberties. Only since the protest movement of the 1960s have groups engaged in this level of direct action. Despite the changes we have seen, the sensitivity of public opin- ion to military casualties, together with the unconvincing outcomes of previous actions, has remained. The bloody conflicts in Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Egypt, Palestine, and Yemen has legitimised threshold for future interventions. One has to ask what impact the toll of deaths and destruction will have in the Middle East for decades to come. Among the affairs, there were of high-pro- file deaths of prominent, and often divisive, political figures – including Margrett Thatcher, Robert Mugabe and Nelson Mandela (to name a few). As we look forward to the ‘20s, one has to ask whether politics will be able to integrate with technological advancement that had already looks unstable with the Cambridge Ana- lytica scandal and the Arab Spring. We may also be on the cusp of an- other recession and how this will react with the post-populist agen- da of our future leaders. One thing is for sure – and the 2010s prove this indefinitely – is that politics is changing, whether the gatekeepers like it or not.
The digital decade, Caitlin Casey
With the birth of Pinterest, Instagram, and Snapchat at the start of the decade, there is no doubt that social media found its way into everyone’s hands and mobile phones. Alongside this new life, we mourned the death of old friends Bebo and Myspace, not to mention that short spell of a video service Vine, which only lasted four years (and was then easily replaced by aits younger, hotter modelsister Tik Tok). I am proud and disappointed to say that I may have not laughed as much without social media this decade. What am I supposed to do without Twitter memes? Talk to people?
According to We Are Social, the total population of social media users reached almost 3.5 billion in 2019, reaching 45% of the world’s population. Nearly half the world is consistently swiping, liking, and refreshing online every day.
It seems that everyone’s trying to go ‘viral’ nowadays. When you can get money and stay loaded from being a highly rated ‘influencer’, the daily 9-to-5 starts to seem a bit unattractive. We have seen it in make-up stars like Jeffree Star, streamers like Ninja, or vloggers like PewDiePie who turn into entrepreneurs chasing the money of their fans. These so-called ‘internet personalities’ as they may call themselves, are probably the biggest con of the decade. We only have to look towards Zoella’s £50 advent calendar scandal to see the worst of the worst.
With a reach so wide, there are conflicts in the online community. The 2010s have seen a surge in the responsibility of these social media companies to put a stop to toxic trends. This year, Instagram removed almost 10,000 self-harm images every day in the months after the Molly Russell scandal and Facebook came to blows in 2018 when Cambridge Analytica broke into the data of millions of users.
Social media is not always perfect. Let me just log on and see what everyone else is saying about it.
This article is part of our one-off edition of IQ Magazine, out from November the 29th 2019. Pick up the magazine on campus in our InQuire distribution bins in Keynes, Co-op, the Templeman library and other locations on campus.