Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Movable Distance, technology and remoteness

Via Cindy I read a long blogpost on Ideant; Movable distance, technology, nearness and farness. The first heading is: detours on the road to abolishing distance. While technology may facilitate being near things once considered far, more than technology is required to bridge the existential gap between the knower and the known. The essay has distance as its topic and argues that we need to think of more than the old temporal/spatial distance, as information technologies make it irrelevant whether we communicate with our colleagues next room, or someone at the other end of the world.

I really appreciated how ideant describes how a lot of talk about online communication carries an implicit judgment about online communication, with a bias towards face-to-face communication. "What do we lose?" Instead of: "what do we gain?"
The implicit assumption is that mediated conversations introduce impurities, because we use lesser senses. Yet, as the essay points out the mediated communication can provide kinds of knowledge not available through face-to-face communication. An online conversation can be 'near' when ideas are congruent with mine, while a face-to-face conversation can be very 'far'.

Now that I write this down, it sounds all too logical to me, and it seems everyone in the world would agree. On the other hand, I do experience that for a lot of people online is less and a substitute for 'real' communication because it is too expensive to travel and meet. I think that's a different mindset from knowing what various types of communication can be fostered and how it impacts the results. Somehow we need to become smarter as using various means without letting ourselves be driven by mere personal preferences. What's the advantage of talking on a blog rather than face-to-face? How does it shift the conversation? Without being aware of this, we will probably not invest in new types of conversations and continue on the same old roads.

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