Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Digital Communications

I was sent this diagram by a friend as a 'good overview of the various types of communication that exist within the modern world'. The funny thing is, what this diagram made me think about... the iPhone4. I didn't think about the iPhone4 because of some wondrous new feature that it bestows on the world or that it pulls together almost all of the above scenarios as core functions. Instead I thought of the iPhone4 because of a term that Steve Jobs has started using: FaceTime.

Looking that the above 10 communications examples I found myself thinking that it is perhaps slightly odd that only two of them involve seeing the person you are talking to, and only one of them involves being in the same physical place as that person. I started thinking about the repercussions that real-time, trans-global communications has on our communications habits and how it is now more natural to communicate with someone in a non-face-to-face manner.

Something else to bare in mind is the frightening speed at which this situation has come about. Most of these technologies / platforms weren't in existence ten years ago.

What does all this mean though? Am I suddenly shunning technology and calling for a reversion to a less technical age? Far from it. I embrace technology and everything that it can do for humanity. However, I think that it is important not to lose sight of the human connection. Not to forget that there is a person on the other end of that Tweet, Facebook Status update, or Txt Message. As a result of technology, many people make less of an effort to have face to face contact with friends or family. Most worrying is that this is very much a self-perpetuating theme as the more real-time platforms and technologies presented to us the less time we have to physically meet people.

For me, the big issue here isn't that I may loose touch with the real world or forget that there are more reasons to meet someone in real life then to talk to them online. The issue is when you consider that anyone currently eighteen or under, has not known a world without the internet. Consider something like Chatroulette, which almost as soon as it was launched became filled with nudity and exhibitionism. Is a Surrogate-esque future with people plugged into machines living solely through a digital representation, with there being no clue as to a persons true 'self', an actual possibility?

The answer, in my mind, is yes. It could easily happen. I don't doubt that there are plenty of people out there who would jump at the chance to live that way, and that saddens me. It saddens me because I see the role that the media, marketing, public relations and 'big business' has to play in that. Don't forget that there's a real world out there. Don't forget that not everything should exist as solely digital. The digital infrastructure and associated communications and entertainment technologies that we have at our disposal should be used to bridge the gaps between people, and bring them closer together, in real life. Use technology to help organise, to help communicate, to help facilitate. But at the end of the day, meet up with people. Talk. Exchange ideas. Share funny stories, or personal heartaches.

Digital communications should be used to talk to people face-to-face!

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