Leading into the Future X: Are We Post Post-Modernism?
Corporations throughout the United States have built postmodern facilities in suburban areas that include lakes, beautiful grounds laced with walking and jogging trails, fitness centers, and gourmet luncheon rooms, usually intermixed with rather sterile-looking concrete buildings filled with confining cubicles and mauve or gray colored, modularized furnishings. Optimistically, we are told that a new era of more user-friendly office buildings has come. An article from Fortune magazine of the early 1990s (November 18, 1991, pp. 141-142) offered this glowing report:
Unlike most office parks built in the past three decades — anonymous-looking blocks of steel and glass, many of them Darth Vader black—the new suburban complexes will be designed on a smaller, more human, even homey, scale. Often, they will resemble farms or college campuses.
Since this time, the theme of “park” and “campus” has become even more prevalent—with many corporations defining their grounds as “campuses”. It is noteworthy that one major high-tech corporation (Oracle) even turned a theme park into their corporate headquarters in Silicon Valley.
The people who fill these urban and suburban buildings are equally diverse with regard to gender, age, nationality, and physical challenges—as are their customers. Members of the organization even participate in a variety of premodern celebrations—company-wide Christmas and Hanukkah gift giving, Fourth of July picnics, and departmental birthday parties. Yet, in true postmodern fashion, one wonders to what extent the premodern celebrations are a bit phony, and even more importantly to what extent there really is postmodern equity and equal access among these people to the career opportunities of this organization. A postmodern canopy of diversity often seems to be draped over a very modern and WASPish culture of privilege and discrimination.
At an even deeper level, one wonders if this fragmentation and inconsistency—and the accompanying edginess—are temporary. Does postmodernism suggest that we are in a major transition between a modern society and some new society that has not yet become clear or at least been properly named? Alternatively, is the postmodern world in which we now live a rather long-lasting phenomenon? We may be moving into a fragmented world that will not readily change. We may never (at least in our lifetime) be able to return to a world of greater simplicity. Regional or national coherence and consistency may be a nostalgic remnant of the past.