In his September 7, 2008, New York Times article entitled, “Brave New World of Digital Intimacy, writer Clive Thompson offers new and compelling insight into the world of digital communication.  I must confess that before reading this article, I like many others viewed Texting, Blogging, Facebook and MySpace as a waste of time.  Who had the time to invest in establishing, designing and maintaining a page?  Who had the interest?  Not I.

The few pages that I had seen seemed like nothing more than self-indulgent, non-celebrity news, advertisements for the regular people.  My guilty pleasures never involved reading about celebrities and they were not going to involve reading about the minute to minute tedious details of the lives of “friends”.

Reading a “Brave New World of Digital Intimacy”, offered a more engaging and unique perspective of realities of digital expression.  Thompson opened my mind to the concept of “ambient awareness”.  He states that “It is, they say, very much like being physically near someone and picking up on their mood through the little things he does-body language, sighs, stray comments-out of the corner of your eye….Each little update -each individual bit of social information-is insignificant on its own, even surprisingly mundane. But taken together, over time, the little snippets coalesce into a surprisingly sophisticated portrait of your friend’ and family members lives…”

As stated by Marc Davis, a chief scientist at Yahoo and former professor of information science at the University of California at Berkeley, told him, “It’s an aggregate phenomenon. No message is the single-most important message…”  According to Thompson, .  “You could also regard the growing popularity of on-line awareness as a reation to social isolation. Ambient awareness becomes a way to “feel less alone”, as more than one Facebook and Twitter user told me”

In addressing my time concern, I found out that “awareness tools are not cognitively demanding”  because they are not really directed at you.  Therefore they do not take up a lot of time.  Also these on-line updates allow you to increase your number of “weak ties”-loose acquaintances, people you know less well.  According to sociologists “weak ties” greatly expand your ability to solve problems.  This could potentially help you to save time.

The ultimate effect of the new awareness, quotes Zeynep Tufekci, a sociologist at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County is that, “It brings back the dynamics of small town life, where everybody knows your business…the current generation is never unconnected.  They’re never losing touch with their friends. So we are going back to a more normal place, historically…”

Digital communication makes it possible to establish and maintain relationships with people all over the world.  Instead of traveling thousands, you need only travel a few key strokes to meet the world at your door.  Meeting the world at my door, now that is exciting.

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