This question surfaced at a recent presentation on Global Cosmopolitans at the Wellfleet Public Library. This generation of people in their 20’s and 30’s have grown up with significant technological advances that have transformed the world. How has it transformed them and their experience?
When I moved to the South of France in 1973, I was starting an adventure based on discussions with friends and books that I had read. I could not look it up on Google, nor could I SMS, email or Skype my parents, friends or colleagues once I got there.
Our meager solution to staying in contact required organization and patience. We brought a tape recorder (do you remember these?) so that we could record stories about life in our village. We would then take the tapes to the village post office to send home. Sometimes it took two weeks or more before they finally made it to the U.S. It seemed to take forever to get our pictures developed to accompany the stories. When emergencies arose, I had to find solutions in a world of slower and often imperfect communications. I did not have an email address that helped people find me immediately. That world has changed.
For today’s Global Cosmopolitans the excitement of new possibilities and the sense of adventure are just as present today as they were in the early ’70s. The psychological challenges of changing cultures are still there. For example, international moves still create feelings of loss – the loss of the familiar and loss of knowing. It can still be difficult to deal with multiple levels of difference.
Equally, the challenges for Global Cosmopolitans have not changed. It is still important to learn about a new culture and learn a new language. Schooling for children still forces people to think about their differences in their own experience from that of their children and reflect on the values underlying different schooling options. Do I choose the international school or place my children in the local schools?
But now, new technologies change significant elements of the global experience. Global moves can be cushioned by the information on email, the ease of flying, and the ability to be in touch with people in other parts of the world. One can read email versions of the New York Times and Le Monde every morning or watch John Stewart on YouTube. It takes a second to send a picture around the world; it is easier to share aspects of a new life and relevant stories. Life can feel more connected and less cut off.
Today’s generation uses technology when faced with the challenges of their lifestyle. Technology is a source of resourcefulness and inventing new solutions. One couple in Hong Kong told me how they experimented and found a combination of Facebook and SMS to stay in daily contact with their American families. A Canadian explained to me that the basis of his cutting-edge ideas in technology came from his experience in Africa, working with banking over the phone.
Maybe the new skill is being able to see new possibilities beyond what we know already. But how else is technology changing the current generation of Global Cosmopolitans? Help me answer the question. Share a story or two that shows how resourcefulness based in technology has helped you find new and better solutions to the challenges of living and working globally.