Since 2000, George W. Bush has been TIME Magazine's Person of the Year twice. The other years have included Rudy Giuliani, a triad of [all-female] "whistleblowers," Bono, Bill and Melinda Gates, and "The American Soldier." This year, in the spirit of the 21st century rebellious creative, TIME has turned its own convention on its head and declared that the 2006 Person of the Year is you, me and everyone we know.
As the inventors of our own experience, the designers of our own culture, there is nobody more influential than an active member of the information revolution. The great enabler of all this personal control is, of course, the World Wide Web. But the Web we have today, says journalist Lev Grossman, is an unrecognizable creature compared to its early incarnations, and the new beast proved its might in 2006:
To be sure, there are individuals we could blame for the many painful and disturbing things that happened in 2006...But look at 2006 through a different lens and you'll see another story, one that isn't about conflict or great men. It's a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. It's about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the million-channel people's network YouTube and the online metropolis MySpace. It's about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.
This interactive online revolution has opened doors and given voice and venue to people in the most remote corners of the globe. But the most networked opportunists out there haven't stood by and passively received what the Web has to offer; they have worked for what they've gained. Grossman points out the radical transformation of our relationship with "down time." The interstices in our daily routine are now filled with furious blogging (ahem...), modifying MySpace profiles, recording and uploading our own albums, creating avatars, and submitting reviews of our user experience with everything from music to appliances to voting.
We're looking at an explosion of productivity and innovation, and it's just getting started, as millions of minds that would otherwise have drowned in obscurity get backhauled into the global intellectual economy...This is an opportunity to build a new kind of international understanding, not politician to politician, great man to great man, but citizen to citizen, person to person.
As the year comes to a close, we at Worldchanging are considering the question: "What's Next?" We can now start to distill the achievements and lessons of 2006, and simultaneously begin to crystallize some visions for the year to come. No doubt, there's an overabundance of lamentable events to consider from the past twelve months, but as a summary of a year, a piece like TIME's adds some welcome strands of optimism to whatever fabric we wove in 2006.
So as you wrap up work and start eating baked goods and making resolutions, we'd like to ask you the question we're asking ourselves. What's to come in 2007?