Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A force that divides and unites

ipod, the internet, blackberries. Technology is often maligned for its capacity to isolate because it separates people to retreat into their own world. This is surely only a generational perspective. Anyone younger than a Boomer who grew up from an early age with computers certainly won't feel this way. Xers and younger have a different relationship with technology and reality. They use technology as a tool in which they remain the master not the slave.

Case in point. Second Life. Here's an except of an interview with CEO of Linden Labs - the company behind Second Life, by David Pogue, from his recent article A Experiment in Virtual Living:

DP: "Is there any worry about the whole isolation thing? First iPod earbuds, and now people substituting virtual interactions for real ones?"

PR: "Well I'll tell ya, the history of technology has, in the past 50 years, been to increasingly isolate us. We've gone from watching movies in a movie theater, to watching them as a family at home, to watching them alone on our iPod.

But actually I think there's a next wave of technology, of which Second Life is certainly a great example, where we are bringing people back together again into the same place to have these experiences.

The thing about Second Life that is so fascinating and different is not just that it's 3-D. There are always people to share that experience with, or to ask for help. Or to laugh at something with. And that experience is an innately human one that technology has deprived us of. I think many people use Second Life to have more friends, and more human contact, than they do in the real world"

It is fascinating to hear that people who are regular Second Lifers spend 4 hours a day in this virtual world. Sounds like an excellent time for a social experiment: how about a longitudinal study in which groups of Second Lifers are tracked and segmented across how much time they spend in the real vs. virtual world. A wonderful opportunity to understand how on-line time affects off-line behavior and the inter-play between the two.

This is an exciting age, one that's fluid, evolving into ever-changing possibilities and will be marked as a time by its character of seemingly contradictory opposites, such as fragmentation and convergence.

No comments: