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By Greg Bayles, graphic remixed from Mary Harrsch
You can check out the conversation below if you prefer to just read through the responses (I personally like the one about chocolate-covered almonds), but to sum up the arguments, my friends gravitated toward five or six main points:
1. Social surplus (extra resources)ISCSC) offered a number of interesting definitions as well:
2. Unified sense of culture
3. Code of law
4. Cohesive economic system
5. Territory (according to the UN)
6. A population (a more obvious but nonetheless essential component)
"[A] grouping of at least several thousand people with a common culture, usually a common language, usually a geographic locale, some significant (usually monumental) buildings and architecture, and a political structure that is not necessarily unified” (Blaha 2002).
"Civilization is fundamentally a cultural infrastructure of information and knowledge that serves survival and continuity. What distinguishes a civilization from a culture is that this infrastructure, having reached a critical level of complexity, becomes autonomous from constituent cities, nations, and empires" (Bosworth 2003)."A ‘civilization’ is mental. It is cultural—a vastly complex and always developing series of human thoughts and feelings, but not of actions, except those very limited actions required to form and express thoughts and feelings" (Coulborn 1966).
“The fact is that a civilization of any but the most simple and archaic kind is a far more complex phenomenon than the philosophers of history have realized. No doubt it is always based on a particular original process of cultural creativity which is the work of a particular people. But at the same time it always tends to become a super-culture—an extended area of social communication which dominates and absorbs other less advanced or less powerful cultures and unites them in an oecumene,” an international and intercultural society, and it is this extension of the area of communication that is the essential characteristic of civilization as distinguished from lower forms of culture" (Dawson 1956)."A civilization has a city or cities with monuments of certain permanence" (Fernandez-Morera).
"It is defined by common objective elements, such as language, history, religion customs, institutions, and by the subjective self-identification of people" (Huntington 1993)
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By Greg Bayles, graphic remixed from langwitches
has its own 'monuments' like Wikipedia or Facebook, which more or less lend permanence to the inchoate digital 'civilization.' There is some issue (and perhaps ground for refutation of this claim) with the non-physicality of such monuments, as links can break and websites can disappear indefinitely, but time, perhaps, will have to be the judge on whether these abide as mementos of our current or future civilizations.
I fear that by this point I've likely lost most of my readers in abstraction or rambling, but I wanted to close with the thoughts of one final political theorist, William McGaughey, who provides an especially insightful look at civilizations in terms of communication and institutions of power:
If, as McGaughey suggests, the Internet is the primary institution of power in our global civilization, then those most capable of bringing about positive and lasting change in the real world will be those possessing mobility, aptitude, and influence within the digital world. Think on that...
Name of Civilization Communication Technology Institution of Power Civilization I ideographic writing imperial government Civilization II alphabetic writing world religion Civilization III printing commerce and education Civilization IV electronic recording and broadcasting media of news and entertainment Civilization V computers the Internet