Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Sea of Screens

I was just sent a link to a Gizmodo article written by Adam Frucci where he brought up the notion of "obsessive documentation." As the photo (taken by Kate Heffernan) clearly shows, we are obsessed with digital documentation. Adam closes his writing by stating, "And in the end, what will help you remember an experience better: taking a not-great picture that's 80% crowd, or giving that experience 100% of your attention? You can always find photos online later, but you'll never be able to go back to that moment again and, well, pay attention to it."

In some respects, I agree with Adam's point of view. We should be able to be more zen, be in the moment, experience the experience and all that goodness. On the other hand, I think that the only way the current 'digital generation' actually feels they have experienced something, is if they have a digital account of it. This premise is what makes microblogging sites so prominent. The amount of information that we consume on a daily basis is vast and abundant. I read so many articles every day that it becomes hard to remember what the messages of each piece was or where to find it again. And so, I twitter it, I forward it and create a digital log of it.

In the case of the Inaugural address or the Youth Ball, there is no chance I could forget attending something like that, with or without having a camera attached to my hand. It's a bit of a double-edged sword because taking pictures means we don't have to remember since we have the pictures, yet at the same time, taking a picture solidifies that we have the memory. We are currently living in an age where digital proof is just as important as actual experience. Even if I attended the Youth Ball with a group of friends, I would still want to take my own pictures despite the fact that all my friends would be doing the same. My camera, my pictures, my memories. There is a degree of identity that is embedded in each digital account. Even if the pictures are seemly all the same, as Adam points out, and there may be 100 photos on flickr that are technically better than the ones you took... you still took it. You were there, you saw, you snapped.

Adam reflects on when he saw Radiohead play live and everyone had their phones out. He says, "people are more interested in taking photos of something they're witnessing than actually, you know, witnessing it." And sure, that might be the case, I understand that he might feel he missed the show if he watched it through a 2x3 inch screen rather than just looking up. If I watched an entire Radiohead show like that, I would feel a bit cheated as well. I saw Radiohead play at Outsidelands in SF this past August, and took a photo of it with my phone. There is NO way anyone would have any idea what they are looking at by viewing the photo posted to above. Me on the other hand, I do. I remember everything about that night, taking that picture, getting trampled by thousands of people. I remember where I was, trying to heave myself out of a wild crowd while 'Talk Show Host' played. That entire night was significant to me. My digital accounts and microblogging from that night are equally important to me. Rather, they were shoddy attempts at microblogging seeing as how 60,000 people were tyring to text, call, twitter, etc. all at the same time which basically arrested the network.

So yes, I wholeheartedly agree with you Adam. We are obsessed with digital documentation. Frankly I wish the other 59,999 people at Outsidelands weren't as obsessed with digital documentation as I am so that my twitter updates would be sent directly after I pressed "send" and I wouldn't have to "miss the show" trying to find a signal.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

"I believe in introducing people to people."

I just listened to this story about Jim Haynes, a Louisiana born real-life networker. He currently lives in Paris and offers up his home as a place for people to come and dine on Sundays. He welcomes his home to absolutely anyone, they only need call or write to let him know they will be there. Over the past 30 years has had anywhere from 50 to over 100 people come for dinner each Sunday.

Jim has a talent for connecting people, but his talent extends far beyond the scope of adding Myspace friends and sending out bulletins. Jim is a master at real-social networking.

Much like fashion or music trends, I wonder if social media will have it's own cyclical nature. Now, social media is bearing the burden of why people are becoming more reclusive, out of touch with society, or socially awkward. A recent Vallywag article attributed the Internet's "dehumanizing effects" to the reason why we are currently so fixated on autism. Author Owen Thomas says that we connect with the concept of autism because we, as a society of Internet obsessed people, can relate to the symptoms. He notes that, "Instant messaging famously suppresses social cues. Needing to type ":-)" to communicate our pleasure may give the tiniest hint of what the disease may be like." Perhaps social media will one day come full swing; rather than pushing us away from eachother, it will bring us together, not only through the internet but in real time and space.

If all this is true, that we are gradually retreating into a world of entirely electronic emotional connections, then Jim Hayes gives us hope for how to translate social networking from pixels to people.

One of the reasons why social media strikes my fancy, aside from loving all the new gadgets and technology that come with the territory, is the opportunity to connect with people on a much larger scale than I could do face-to-face. Jim, somehow, has managed to interact with more people face-to-face than I think I could manage online. He knows people's names, stories, and personalities. He has the added benefit of interacting with them, truly understanding their idiosyncrasies. He doesn't need to emphasize each joke with ":))".

Yesterday, Jeremiah Owyang suggested people take a step back from such deep interconnectivity in order to gain a bit of perspective. I agree, it's nice to "get back to our roots" of interacting the way it was intended. Odd how normal human interaction is somewhat a thing of the past.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Back in the game for the New Year

I have been out of comission for the past few weeks. I caught a nasty version of the common cold, much like the majority of folks out there. I had the benefit of having my momma take care of me for a few days, she said the stores were nearly all out of chicken noodle soup. Really? We are all that sick right now? I am shocked...but also fairly impressed at our unity. ;)

I had many hours to sit on the couch and suck in a bit of mindless entertainment. I am now all caught up on shows and movies I have been wanting to see. I discovered a new show, "The Big Bang Theory." Have you heard of it? I geeked out a bit over it because in one episode they happend to mention "noob" and the non-Newtonian corn starch experiment.

Watch this funny clip about how Sheldon is trying to get his neighbor to leave him alone after he introduces her to online gaming and she becomes hooked.

He told her to leave him alone, then texted her, sent out an emphatic twitter, even changed his facebook status to "Sheldon Cooper wishes Penny would leave him alone."

I love how social media is sneaking it's way into TV sitcoms. Because yes, how connected we all are is somewhat absurd and definitely works in a sitcom script.

Also, the show is good. I thought I was going to be unimpressed, but they have a lot of solid nerdy references. 

I'm Tawnee and I approve this message.