(via Sebastian Fiedler) So I would qualify this as must reading for anyone who is trying to get a handle on what’s happening with social technologies. This month’s issue of Technology Review has a well written article by Wade Roush about the impact of blogs, wikis, Flickr and the like:
This explosion of new capabilities shouldn’t be mistaken for “feature creep,” the accretion of special functions that has made common programs such as Microsoft Word so mystifyingly complex. There is something different about the latest tools. They are both digital, rooted in the world of electrons and bits, and fundamentally social, built to enable new kinds of interactions among people. Blogging, text messaging, photo sharing, and Web surfing from a smart phone are just the earliest examples. Almost below our mental radar, these technologies are ushering us into a world of what could be called continuous computing–continuous in the usual sense of “uninterrupted,” but also in the sense that it’s continuous with our lives, in all their messy, social, biographical richness.
I agree with Seb who notes that we’re starting to see all of these disparate tools being pulled together into a more holistic framework and that’s a good thing. When all of the parts really come together, it will be interesting to see how close to reality this vision is:
And this, in the end, is what’s truly new about continuous computing. As advanced as our PCs and our other information gadgets have grown, we never really learned to love them. We’ve used them all these years only because they have made us more productive. But now that’s changing. When computing devices are always with us, helping us to be the social beings we are, time spent “on the computer” no longer feels like time taken away from real life. And it isn’t: cell phones, laptops, and the Web are rapidly becoming the best tools we have for staying connected to the people and ideas and activities that are important to us. The underlying hardware and software will never become invisible, but they will become less obtrusive, allowing us to focus our attention on the actual information being conveyed. Eventually, living in a world of continuous computing will be like wearing eyeglasses: the rims are always visible, but the wearer forgets she has them on–even though they’re the only things making the world clear.
Lots to think about…
Raj Boora says
I blogged about this on Friday (http://idarknight.blogspot.com/2005/07/social-computing.html) asking the question: “So with all that going on… what are we doing when we are not using technologies like handhelds and blogs/wikis in the classroom?”
I think that in the end, after many years, the cell phone will become something like the watch – a “simple” device that is so linked into other parts of life that it becomes difficult to ignore – imagine trying to get through a working day (or even a social day) without ever looking at a watch or clock. We might one day never think about not having access to whatever is coming through the devices that we carry – the “uber phones”.
Laura Pearle says
Don’t you think that this is a little dangerous? My sister (an IT biggie at a major university) worries that her children will not know how to live without being plugged in and available: they’ll miss the pleasure of quiet time, alone, unreachable because it’s considered “bad” or “weird”. Her eldest is agitating for a cell phone because “everyone has one”, which reminds us of those days when you *had* to have the right pair of jeans or the school jacket, and when the response was “just because ‘everyone’ has it doesn’t mean you have to.”
What are we teaching young people about the value of privacy if they’re never alone or unavailable? What are we saying about quiet and solitude if the norm is to constantly be “on”?
This trend worries me. Will’s post worries me. It’s not necessarily a good thing just because the technology is there or we can!
Raj Boora says
Laura, it may be that in the end, part of what we teach people in a plugged world is how to unplug – though harder done than said (look at what it takes to get people walking again after driving for so long).
Will R. says
I don’t know, Laura. I think being plugged in is going to be more and more “normal” as we move forward. But that doesn’t mean we won’t be able to unplug or that we shouldn’t unplug (even though I’m finding it harder and harder to do…;0)) I think it’s up to parents to teach balance. I try to do that with my own kids, even though my own life is pretty much out of whack. I limit their time on the computer. And I know it’s easy when they’re young, but I want to make sure they have a balance as they get older too. I’m not scared of it, but I am aware of it, and I think that’s the important part.