Transformations, Evolutions, and Modernity

This week, Harris explained the different aspects of taking an approach in academic writing. One of the concepts that especially stuck with me was the concept of reflexivity. Harris describes reflexivity as “those moments in a text when a writer reflects on the choices that she or he has made in taking a certain approach or in making use of a particular term” (85). He also notes that a key part of this method is to re-mold or re-shape a writer’s work when expanding on your own views. When I read that, I rethought the way I read and write about the works of Giddens—I tend to argue and protest his views, but I’m going to try and re-style them instead to keep with the theme of reflexivity.

In the section of Giddens we read, he brushed heavily on how our basic sense of trust and the way we form relationships have evolved with modernity. I found it particularly interesting when he spoke about the development of friendships, particularly in the world we live in today in contrast to a different era in modernity. On page 118, he describes pre-modern friendship as “means of creating more or less durable alliances against particularly hostile groups outside.” In their world, friendship ensured a likelihood of survival from attack; in our world, friendship means having emotional support and having people to make memories with. This really got me thinking about how the development of seemingly mundane things over time—like the military, or communities, or schooling—have completely transformed words such as “friend” or “socializing” and “neighborhood”. In addition, even more change has happened on this front since 1990 when this text was written. How has the creation of Facebook and Instagram transformed the meaning of “friend”? How have anonymous posting sites (for instance, YikYak) shifted our sense of basic trust?

One particular theme Giddens presents that I want to reflect on is his presentation of the relationship between security, basic trust, risk, and travel. He claims, “Abstract systems have provided a great deal of security in day-to-day life which was absent in pre-modern orders” (112). In some aspects, this is very true. I tend to think of air traveling as exciting, as cosmopolitan, and even as glamorous. While traveling in 2014 is nowhere near as difficult as it was in 1014, one’s security is always at stake—just in different means. I probably won’t have to fend off a pack of wolves or an enemy tribe (or any of the other dangers pre-modern travelers faced) on my flight to Cancun this summer, but my security is will be tested in different measures. How many news reports have I seen about airport security breaches, passengers traveling with highly infectious diseases, or about TSA agents gone rogue? We place our basic trust—and lives, for that matter—in strangers we believe are “experts” in their field as well as in the fellow passengers we are traveling with. While modernity and technology has undoubtedly made travel easier, I believe that security is always at risk; the terms of that “risk,” however, are constantly evolving with the changes in modernity.

7 thoughts on “Transformations, Evolutions, and Modernity

  1. Emily-

    I really appreciated how you took Giddens’ idea of friendship, and related it back to the way we view the term today in modern society. I would agree that your definition of friendship, “having emotional support and having people to make memories with,” is correct. However, I believe that Giddens also makes a valid point in saying that friendship is defined as, “means of creating more or less durable alliances against particularly hostile groups outside” (Giddens 118). I think that we can all relate to Giddens’ ideas of using friends as an alliance, by thinking of the alliance as more of a shoulder to lean on, or simply a loyal friend.

    Your thoughts about his presentation of the relationship between security, basic trust, risk, and travel reminded me of a similar thought process I had while reading. Giddens states, “Trust in abstract systems is not as psychologically rewarding in the way in which trust in persons is” (Giddens 113). After contrasting our opinions of friendship to Giddens, I re-read this quote and concluded that Giddens had a more sentimental outlook on friendship than I had originally thought.

    Thank you for another insightful post!

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  2. In this blog post, Emily mentions that, “I believe that security is always a risk; the terms of that risk, however, are constantly evolving with the changes in modernity.” Risk is always changing and now a risk has become a global issue instead of just a local issue. Giddens brings up this idea of global risk a lot with his weird attraction to nuclear war ruining the world when he says, “The possibility of nuclear war, ecological calamity, uncontainable population explosion, the collapse of global economic exchange, and other potential global catastrophes provide an unnerving horizon of dangers for everyone” (125). This shows that now everyone has inherent risk that we all know about but don’t even think of. These dangers are changing today too and is proven with the spreading of viruses like Ebola. Can we evolve as a society without forming more global risks and does the positive outweigh the chance of catastrophe?

    Stephen

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  3. You made some excellent points when discussing the topic of friendship as Giddens’ describes it in this chapter. You talked about the evolving definitions of “friendship” and “community” with a lot of detail and a good sense of support from the Giddens text. ” In their world, friendship ensured a likelihood of survival from attack; in our world, friendship means having emotional support and having people to make memories with. The open-ended questions you left in your response is a great place to start in thinking about if Gidden’s opinions still play a role in today’s idea of personal connections on a friendly level.” On page 118 he also writes, “Sincerity is obviously likely to be a highly prized virtue in circumstances where the dividing lines between friend and enemy were generally distinct and tensionful. Your questions about the influence of Twitter and Facebook “friends” is a great example. I think the definition of friendship as it meant in pre-modern times has not changed very much. Friends are a resource when you cannot provide enough for yourself and vice versa. They are the most valuable when you have been placed in a risky situation. When talking about modern means of communication, what use could millions of followers provide for you in a risky situation? Is a display of “followers” of motion of their sincerity for you, or is it all superficial?

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  4. I found your thoughts on security and basic trust to be extremely thought provoking. When you mentioned that “We place our basic trust—and lives, for that matter—in strangers we believe are “experts” in their field as well as in the fellow passengers we are traveling with”, I realized that basic trust is no more than ignorance of everything going on around you. Giddens says that basic trust “derives from personal trust and establishes a need for trust in others” (114). It is very difficult to rely on a species that is, in my opinion, very inconsistent. So in that sense is our ignorance created purposefully? I believe that we choose to ignore things that may harm us to keep piece of mind in our ever changing world.
    JW

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  5. Emily,

    I think you did an amazing job of explaining the views of Giddens using Harris’ theme of reflexivity. Personally, what stood out to me the most in your post was the extensive list of examples that you used to further your point. When you brought up Giddens’ quote from page 118 describing pre-modern friendships as, “means of creating more or less durable alliances against particularly hostile groups outside”, and then used it to explain how friendship changed over time truly helped explain your views and ideas on the situation. I also like how you brought up current social media websites and how they shift our basic sense of trust as a whole. Bringing up the quote from page 112, “Abstract systems have provided a great deal of security in day-to-day life which was absent in pre-modern orders”, and using it to spark your idea on modern travel was also a very great way of conveying your point. You finished off your post with slight questioning, and then finalizing your idea in the last sentence; overall this was a very informative blog post.

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  6. Emily,

    It seems as if Gidden’s altered your way of thinking in terms of arguing his point of view to instead “re-shaping” them. Re-shaping an “opponents” view allows you to both agree and disagree with them. It also allows for a clear distinction between their ideas and your own ideas. For example, Gidden’s idea of pre-modern friendship ignited further thoughts in your head regarding communities and militaries. Do you think Gidden’s ideas of friendship still apply to modern day friendships that you personally form?

    Liz

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  7. Emily,

    I was particularly struck by your question: “How have anonymous posting sites (for instance, YikYak) shifted our sense of basic trust?” On the one hand, this particular app is “hyper-local” but also–largely–anonymous. How do technologies like this one force us to rethink some of Giddens’s concepts?

    ~DM

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