A month ago I was visiting Korea and Taiwan on business with some of my colleagues. I was sitting in a cab with my colleague Adam Powers heading to our hotel. It was a 45 min ride back to the hotel. As soon as we got back into the cab, we pulled out our Blackberries to check our emails followed by our voice mails. Then we both joked about the fact that we are so hooked onto our “email” clients and went back to our Blackberries. I checked by Facebook account to update my status to make sure all my virtual friends and contacts know where I am, responded to few of my MySpace buddies and posted few comments to Twitter. Congratulated a contact in Italy on his first born, posted a comment to one other friend regarding his obsession with Heather Lockear and scanned recently uploaded photos on my Flickr account. Before we knew we were at the hotel. 45 mins went by without me knowing anything more about Adam or his interests or his latest projects or his weekend plans. We conversed for less than a minute in those 45 minutes. In the “pre-Blackberry” era we would have talked up a storm.
Have we become “anti-social” in our physical life where as “super social” over electronic communication?
What are the sociological implications of a society that is tethered to be electronically social but not so plugged in with the surroundings?
What are the physiological implications – especially our eyes, ears and other sense organs with gadgets plugged into our ears and glued to our eyes?
We are so oblivious to our surroundings – in public places – trains, buses, etc – we have become completely irrelevant to the person sitting next to us. Days are gone when you can eves drop on the conversations to either quench your gossip curiosity or use that to build a new friendship or join in the conversation or help them with something – because you are so busy listening into your iPod and playing solitaire on your iPhone.
Seeds for Ideation …..
The way I see, there are few questions that are yet to be answered – in turn lead us to some innovation.
1. Physiological implications of getting plugged in electronically – on our sense organs.What can be done to mitigate them in the long run?
2. Sociological implications of being anti-social in the physical world.
If we put aside physiological implications, I feel the sociological angle could be tackle much easily with the help of same technology that brought us to this juncture.
Innovate on head phones that let you capture noise from the surroundings, filter/distill the relevant information into your ear drums. This could be a feature that you could set on or off. For example, you could customize the headphones to capture words such as your name, bomb, or your mother tongue and so forth.
Come up with applications that run on your mobile phone that tell you if any0ne in your address book is also on the same train in the same compartment using LBS/GPS/Bluetooth technologies.
The goal should be to use the same technology to fulfill use cases in public spaces that were prevalent in the pre-cell phone/blackberry era.