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the digital life


Today's New York Times magazine has an article, My So-Called Blog on weblogs and the impact of our digital lives on the "real" world:

When M. gets home from school, he immediately logs on to his computer. Then he stays there, touching base with the people he has seen all day long, floating in a kind of multitasking heaven of communication. First, he clicks on his Web log, or blog -- an online diary he keeps on a Web site called LiveJournal -- and checks for responses from his readers. Next he reads his friends' journals, contributing his distinctive brand of wry, supportive commentary to their observations. Then he returns to his own journal to compose his entries: sometimes confessional, more often dry private jokes or koanlike observations on life.

Finally, he spends a long time -- sometimes hours -- exchanging instant messages, a form of communication far more common among teenagers than phone calls. In multiple dialogue boxes on his computer screen, he'll type real-time conversations with several friends at once; if he leaves the house to hang out in the real world, he'll come back and instant-message some more, and sometimes cut and paste transcripts of these conversations into his online journal. All this upkeep can get in the way of homework, he admitted. ''You keep telling yourself, 'Don't look, don't look!' And you keep on checking your e-mail.''

Well, we've all been there, haven't we? Okay, many of us have. Okay, would you believe me if I said I have? :-)

The article has a certain focus on "teenagers" or "young adults" for some reason. But that aside, it has some interesting comments and some good insights that apply to all groups I think. Everyone that is involved with new tools (using them... building them... whatever...) is trying to feel their way around.

And this is just text, and maybe pictures. A video here and there at most. And that creates a certain tension IMO, which won't really be gone until we can superimpose cyberspace with meatspace.

Right now if you want to "be online", mostly (and I emphasize mostly, as we all know that you could be IM'ing on your cellphone these days) you need to be sitting at a computer, and that means not being with others, or doing other things. The display, the keyboard, the whole UI experience pulls us in and demands a large part of our attention.

Result: a disconnect.

But, as I said, if the "real" (I keep putting real between quotes because I'm a subjectivist) and "virtual" worlds were superimposed things would be different. When that superimposition happens, there will be very little tension between interacting digitally and otherwise.

How do I mean? Science Fiction moment: You look at a restaurant and your glasses (or a retinal implant) superimpose a translucent image of its website. You get a person's business card and it contains a bluetooth chip that tells your PAN (Personal Area Network) about the person's email, etc, and their company webpage pulls up next to their smiling face and you see there that the product he's talking about hasn't been released yet. Or you have embedded a few key details into a wireless implant in your arm and everyone that sees you through the glasses (or the implant!) can see your weblog too, and see that you just posted a picture of them, taken with your cameraphone. Posting, browsing, and chatting, all from your local pub, pint in hand.

Okay, this is pretty lame as science fiction goes. I should brush up on my Snow Crash, Neuromancer, The Diamond Age, and all the rest...

Wait a minute. How did I get here from a New York Times article? Oh Well. :-)

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on January 11 2004 at 12:50 AM

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