The Relationship Revolution

Summary of: The Relationship Revolution

Author(s) / Editor(s)

While the Internet phenomenon is often referred to as an “Information Revolution,” Michael Schrage says this is a misnomer and claims it is more accurate to state that the world is in the midst of a Relationship Revolution.


Publication Reference

Published in/by
from the Merrill Lynch Forum


  • 58% of people see themselves as passengers rather than drivers on the new Information Superhighway.
  • 51% of adults think the Internet phenomenon is more an example of ‘media hype’ than a fundamental change in this society’s technology.
  • 40% of the general public expect their computers to be more important than their cars ten years from now.
  • 76 % of people view the Internet and new computer technology as technologies that will allow them to do their job better and more efficiently, rather than as a threat that someday may replace them in their job.
  • 76% of people believe that computers, computer networks and e-mail have strengthened, their relationships with the people they work with.
  • 73% think that the private sector rather than government should subsidize research that further develops the Information Superhighway.
  • 64% believe the Internet should be kept tax free.
  • 74% don’t think the government should be able to read private email even if it would reduce crime.
  • 53% of Generation X and 59% of the Baby Boomers think computers and the net have had a significantly greater impact on their lives than cable TV and VCRs.

“Along every conceivable dimension — from the intimate to the institutional — digital media force both individuals and organizations to redefine what kind of relationships create value.” The result of this paradigm shift isn’t about data and information, it’s about the value and priority that people place on the quantity and quality of their relationships.

Significant advances in technology have always altered how we perceive ourselves and our relationships. The automobile had an impact beyond simply moving from point to point B, and TV had an impact beyond delivering images and sound. Both of those wrought real and profound cultural change. Whenever a new medium emerges we have to look beyond the simple mechanics of the medium to the impact the medium has on the community. What’s important to recognize is that these new digital technologies aren’t simply evolutions of preceding technologies, but that these new technologies are now networked with each other. These new networks between networks have resulted in new relationships between networks that, in turn, have created new kinds of relationships between people.

This new phase of networked technologies allows individuals and institutions alike to create new ways of interaction. Intimacy, anonymity, trust, openness, access, passion, negotiation, hierarchy, coordination and collaboration can all be mediated, monitored and managed via networks ostensibly designed to carry bits. The value challenge has shifted from gathering and disseminating information to packaging and bundling it in unexpected ways.

What people crave is the chance to communicate and relate to each other in new ways – not simply to have access to a vast feast of information. The new technologies are directly related to the essence of being human. They challenge and stretch the traditional meaning of concepts like relationship, community and interpersonal expression. People expect more from these new technologies than simple job improvement, they want it to improve their working relationships with their boss, their colleagues, their subordinates and their clients.

Ultimately what is critical to people is value, and it is people, not information, that create value. According to “Netizens” their increased sense of belonging, of being part of a larger community, greatly outweighs the benefits of having a mass of information available. Failing to understand the transformational affects of the digital technology on culture itself will result in missed opportunities.