Andrew (perspectivism) wrote,

"Welcome to the Always-On World"

Divided attention: When every relationship is present everywhere, all the time, it becomes necessary to juggle. This will require lots of local negotiation; many lunch dates now begin with the parties agreeing to pull out their cell phones and get their lives in order before they start to converse.

If everyone has a device that continually displays the stock prices, the ball scores, and the video feed from the day care center, then the social problems that are already caused by glancing at one's watch in the midst of a conversation will get much worse. Our various involvements will become omnipresent, always laying claim to a corner of our awareness. [...]

The opposite extreme from an always-on world is feudalism, in which everyone assumes that all relationships are fixed, static, permanent, and God-given, so that everyone knows their place and fully expects to spend their lives maneuvering within a specific, small, stable repertoire of relationships.

Feudalism has its virtues: if the relationships are good ones, then they can acquire a depth and comfort that comes from the confidence that they will always be around. The problem with feudalism, of course, is that most of the relationships aren't good ones, so that everyone is trapped in the relational world they were born with.

The always-on world has the opposite problem. It is a world of freedom, but it is also a world of anonymous global forces that ceaselessly rearrange all relationships to their liking. We don't understand this world very well, but we will soon have plenty of opportunity to study it first-hand. (Philip E. Agre)
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