Pssst…Microscopes Weren’t Meant For Star Gazing

This isn’t quite finished but what actually ever is? I am becoming increasingly frustrated with a growing number of posts definitively stating what is or isn’t right with FriendFeed or Twitter and how we should or shouldn’t be using these tools. On one hand these are simply more ideas thrown into the mixing bowl – ideas that will help all of us work through a very new set of concepts. On the other hand, as the title of this post suggests, I feel like we have discovered a new planet and are trying to understand its importance by analyzing a 1-inch by 1-inch plot of dirt.

I am quite certain that there will be many that believe I am overstating the importance of the communication shift that tools like FriendFeed and Twitter represent. That is understandable since services like these utilize technologies already in place and familiar to us. (Much like mobile phones were conceptually similar to home phones – but you will be hard pressed to convince me that mobile phones have not had a massive impact on our world.)

In a FriendFeed discussion the other day Alexander van Elsas posited that he wasn’t sure “if we are at the start of a new era of interaction” because “Only the scale differs.” To me – scale is everything.

Why Scale Matters

The central goal of the technologies that have shaped and defined the world we live in has always been to facilitate an expansion of our ability to share information. The innovations that have truly altered the way we communicate have, and always will, be those tools that expand our abilities exponentially.

The shift from ink and quill to fountain pen was surely a welcome change but did it massively alter communication? Of course not. What about the printing press? Technically, the printing press was merely a change in scale wasn’t it? And yet, that change – the ability to make a greater number of copies of a document – completely altered the history of the world.

I believe the concepts represented by applications like FriendFeed and Twitter offer an expansion of our ability to share information that is large enough to again change the world we live in. The contrast of life before and after mass adoption of technologies like these may not be as stark as the before and after periods surrounding the development of the printing press but the impact will be similar. Here is why.

The Inevitable Change

If you were able to create a formula that tracked the speed with which information could be shared that also accounted for the number of people that information could be shared with on average I have no doubt that a graph of communications from the beginning of recorded history would show a constant increase.

I state the obvious to illustrate that a constant, unstoppable force expanding the speed and scope of the dissemination of information has always existed. This is why the concepts of FriendFeed and Twitter will, at some point, inevitably become an intricate part of the fabric of our daily lives.

We have already experienced some seismic shifts in the way we communicate and nothing highlights the impact these changes have had better than blogs. It is hard for us to conceptualize the impact blogs have had because we can’t turn back the clock and replay the last few years without them and, like frogs in a pot of slowly boiling water, the changes seem fairly incremental to us. Even so, the accountability and additional sources of information blogs provide have dethroned a media giant (Rather) and forced corporations and political candidates to take greater care with the public statements they make.

These alterations of the status quo occurred because a wider pool of individuals, each with knowledge and insights unique to them, were able to take a piece of information and add to it. The more this happened, the greater the volume of information shaped the story. Rather and his team had a piece of information, they no doubt sought the input of several others while determining whether and how to share the information and based on pre-blog level of thinking they probably felt pretty good about the evidence they had in hand. The newly expanded scale of individuals who could add their information to the story provided a much different conclusion.

The underlying concepts of emerging social media applications will immensely amplify our access to different sources of information, the speed with which that information can be passed along and the scope of its potential recipients. Take my experience with FriendFeed as an example – through existing communication mediums like email and reading and commenting on blog posts I would NEVER have interacted with any of the people I exchange thoughts with now on a daily basis. If you have had a similar experience, think back over the last month and try and remove EVERY new thing you have learned or opinion that has altered your own thoughts in any way as a direct result of a social media application. While impossible to do it at least gives some sort of idea of what kind of impact the concepts that power these applications will have when mass adopted.

The technology exists to give each of us the ability to share any activity we wish, from any location we choose, with anyone we would like – at this point it just needs to be developed and applied. I firmly believe that the application of those technologies to our daily lives will dramatically change the world we live in – whether we realize it or not.

Advertisements

Tags: , , ,

One Response to “Pssst…Microscopes Weren’t Meant For Star Gazing”

  1. Dear Early Adopters Please Pull Your Heads Out of « Aurelius Maximus Says:

    […] Aurelius Maximus Politics, Technology and Life Lived Without Limits « Pssst…Microscopes Weren’t Meant For Star Gazing […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: