The web is a screen

As summer cools down I’m thinking about web innovations that can extend the reach of our data and attract more engagement from our core audiences.  Looking around I took a quick inventory of what’s occurring in society as technology seeps deeper into our daily lives.  These are some of my observations.

We’re all staring at screens for longer periods each day.  The screens are varied in size, form, connectivity and portability [and many other aspects].  There isn’t a public space anywhere in our city [Seattle] that doesn’t have at least a few people staring at a screen.  At times it’s so pervasive that I wonder if owning a device and staring at it’s screen is a requirement for citizenship.  We wake up, pick up a screen; get ready for the day while looking at a screen; enter the day and look at more screens; end the day looking at a screen.  The screen [for short] is now a personal possession as important as a wallet or driver’s license or car keys or [fill in with your most important personal possession].

Yet transitioning from one screen to another screen is somewhat abrupt – put down a smartphone, jump on a keyboard and mouse connected to a desktop computer – almost like getting out of one car and climbing into another.  It takes a couple minutes to get yourself oriented on the new screen; start a task and move on.  All screens – even if you own them or have access to all of them – are not kept in sync; the task you left from one screen does not continue on the next screen you look at.

Each screen wears our eyes down, especially as we jump from screen to screen. I often see people riding mass transit who are jumping from smartphone to laptop computer and back without breaks to prevent eye strain.  These two screens typically do not have the same resolution so eyes have to adjust for each screen.  TODO: add paper from Andy Wilson

The screen is held in hand and stared at despite our setting in the physical world.  A person might be walking across the street or driving a car but this doesn’t stop the staring at the screen.  There’s plenty of news stories about this phenomenon I could link to; you get the picture.

Immediately around me ad-hoc networks aren’t available to learn more about who’s around me and their interests.  Our big, scary fears of privacy loss prevent these ad hoc networks from developing.  Yet these ad hoc networks are critical for real collaboration in a work space where all members have shared interests.  And even if they’re not critical for work; they’re equally important for an open society.  Read Write Web posted an article from someone who attended Burning Man, related to social networking at the event:

http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/the-social-network-is-all-around-you-a-lesson-from-burning-man.php

It’s a good reminder that we’re too distracted by the screen and not present in what’s going on around us.  The tools for connection are in our hands [the screen] but they shouldn’t replace the connection itself, i.e. human-human.

More later…

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