Friday, December 29, 2006

 

Social Computing

For quite some time now, using a computer has been a solo experience. Sort of a personal productivity machine - one screen, one keyboard. As more interactive programs and websites have popped up and taken over, it is not uncommon to find several people huddled in front of a computer screen. While watching House Hunters on HGTV the other day, I saw a family of four sitting at a table, each with a laptop, looking for properties. My daughter joked that they were probably IMing each other. People have been predicting the demise of social activities because of computer technology and the Internet, but it's not happening. It may have been happening for a while, but human beings simply can't live without other human beings, so the pendulum is swinging back.

In a related story, there was a discussion on MPR today about the changes in media and news broadcasting brought about by the shift to digital media. The prediction was that people would only seek out the stuff they were interested in if there weren't newspapers or broader TV programs that gave people a well-rounded bunch of stories. While I could argue that much of what is presented as news today isn't particularly well-rounded, what strikes me about this is the lack of faith in the ability of humans to search for stuff outside their direct interests. People get bored really quickly, so once something gets old, it gets old, and we start looking for new stuff. Also, as mentioned above, we are social creatures. If I don't happen to hear a particular news story, there's a sure bet that my husband, my children, or my friends have heard it and will pass it along. We're talking the Internet, here, folks. We are not living in fully separated cardboard boxes with blinders on and earplugs in. The news will get through.

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