The Wonderful World

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On Wikipedia, media theorist, Marshall McLuhan, is credited with coining the term “Global Village” in the early 1960s. Back then, the Village was built with radio and television broadcasts. Today the Village is being built with Internet and Web technologies. Regardless of the technologies, Global Village still refers to the collapsing of barriers and the interaction of people on a global scale.

Question: Has improved technology improved the content that people communicate and how we interact?

Communications technology has bridged the distances but has it collapsed all of the barriers? Our technology has manipulated time and distance to our advantage. We communicate further and faster than we did just a decade ago. But has the content of our communications improved? Faster and further, yes. But are we listening? Is it a conversation? The active collaboration of ideas that form a greater understanding? Or are we just perpetuating the same old communications detritus in greater force and speed?

Social Interaction Designer, Adrian Chan, provides an interesting though heady description of the “pragmatics of communication and a theory of human computer interaction and computer mediated interaction focused on the human factors of communications technologies.”

Pragmatics is defined as “branch of linguistics that emphasizes the how of what we say (in addition to the what).”

There are several observations Adrian makes that resonate with me. Beginning with:

Technologies are rational by design, and in use, they rationalize human activity. Human communication and interaction, however, are neither rational nor designed. The difference between the technical and the human shows up in technology at what we call the “interface…”

To function, technologies must map to human action just as humans must grasp and relate through technology. The greater the transparency of one domain to the other, and the greater the transitivity of actions from one through the other, the more effective their interface.

What resonates for me is not so much is description of the process of effective communication. What resonates for me is the impact of irrational and undesigned human communication.

The best illustration of this is human interaction with the Blackberry (or what my coworker calls the “Crackberry.”) Since being given one, she like President Obama is in perpetual communication but what is the value of that communication? The Blackberry allows us to say more and hear more but is the content richer? Has the Blackberry brought the Village together in greater unison and harmony? Can it?

Another illustration is the reaction to the White House email servers crashing. The election of President Obama is historic not only on human terms as the first Black president but also on terms of communications as the first president to utilize the technology.

My hope is that content will follow the contact.

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