Allen Smith, who works for WHERE, contacted me about my last post with an interesting corrective:
“I always thought about recent phone technology as allowing the
internet to come out into the world and overlay it with information, I
never thought of it the other way around, “extending the idea and
functionality of location into the network.”
I agree that “net-locality” is about the internet coming out into the world; however, it is equally true that social norms and meanings of physical location are constructing the norms and meanings of networked interaction. In other words, people are compelled to use the tools to assist with the sorts of social interactions they would like to experience in physical space – sharing ideas, sharing places, making plans, and benefitting from the wisdom (or madness) of the crowd. Perhaps it’s like the difference between a manual and electric screwdriver – each can get the job done, but one can do it more efficiently. Net-locality, in some respects, is more efficient location.
My question for Allen, and my question in general is: what’s the relationship between face-to-screen and face-to-face?
If, in fact, net-locality is about more efficient location, how can we keep the technology from displacing us from location? Manuel Castells predicted that the space of flows was to overtake the space of places. But I’m convinced that the space of places continues to influence the meaning of social life – as an idea in the network as much as a physical location. But how is this engineered? It gets back to the above question: if we’re really interested in enhancing human connections and place identification through computer augmentation, how do we negotiate the user’s focus? How do we use the technology to build meaningful places and relationships, and not just meaningful networks?