Yesterday I read a great post that made connections between historical disruptive periods and the social web and took a look at both the driving force and transforming period before the force developed significant value.
Its definitely worth a read, but in summary, Clay Shirky describes the period of transformation from rural life to urban during the industrial revolution and the collective struggle. He states that it wasn't until the creation of key public services, museums, libraries and expanded education for children - services that were unnecessary prior to this transformation - that opportunity was realized.
Clay then suggests that the sitcom, a staple of TV since the second World War was the "social lubricant" as "the critical technology of the 20th Century. Now before you dismiss this consider his point, that following the war and the shift in our economic system of 9-5 jobs etc... that there was a new surplus of free time. True enough we have used this free time to consume ever larger amounts of TV (and all other media too) and while TV has created both great entertainment like Seinfeld as well as not so great reality shows like Tila Tequila - Shot at Love, it has also driven the standard of living, democratizing the access to information (24 hour News), and social issue commentary. I'd take it step further that TV also helped the US establish a definable economy and obviously our brand model. There would be no Tide without TV, no Wal-Marts either.
The punch line for the post is that we are on the verge of another big transformation due to the Social Web, that we are moving beyond the "gin-carts" of the industrial revolution and the post war sitcom's.
You might guess that I think he's right. Yeah sure we'll still have all the crackerjack aspects of the Social Web, the hot or not's and the like, but there are real opportunities for the world. Look at the number of charities that have grown, the green movement advancement, and more through the social web already. Look at the access to information, and our ability to participate, Digg and Wikipedia are great examples.
What direction does this go? Who knows for sure, but I'm excited to see where!