TentAnother excellent counter-intuitive thesis is advanced by Gillian Tett in this morning’s Financial Times (on counter-intuitive theses, see this previous post). Now a celebrated economic journalist but originally a cultural anthropologist, Tett spent time living with, and observing, remote Tibetan communities in Tibet and Tajikistan, where ‘Each night, piles of people would all sleep in the same room, or tent. If somebody was not sleeping or eating well, it became a matter of wider knowledge and debate.’ Personally, Tett found that extremely intrusive, being used to Western-style ‘privacy’. Until recently, she writes ‘I vaguely assumed that societies tended to shed this group pattern when they got richer. After all, the broad sweep of history suggests that most cultures have become more individualistic over time, as wealth gives people more freedom to break away from the group.’ But now Tett wonders whether the digital revolution isn’t undermining such assumed trends. Over and beyond the way young people think little nowadays of posting a great deal of private information on such social networks as Twitter and Facebook, she cites a new trend in New York, whereby young professionals have started wearing monitoring devices that share information about such intimate aspects of their lives as sleeping patterns, exercise and eating habits. One can see the competitive logic and the use of peer group pressure to maintain self-discipline but, still, Tett sees this development as ‘one more sign of the degree to which most of us want to remain inside a social group.’ We are never too far, it seems, from that communal sleeping space.