musings of a mediabot

Archive for October 2008

Instant messaging exploded as hype – you either got it or you didn’t.  The trend instantly became a part of the global culture, dramatically changing the way (and how quickly) people communicated with each other.  IM has given birth to a new language, a sort of SMS “street” slang, that only the most IM-adept could understand.  Now, IM has attracted crowds other than the bubble-gum teens.  Check out the commercials.  IM is everywhere, including the workplace.  Everyone is chatting in bite-sized phrases.

I am a proud instant messenger/texter myself.  It’s convenient.  It takes only a minute, or a few if you’re involved in an actual chat.  But, in the workplace?  It is one thing to have a group chat to brainstorm new strategies, for say, starting an ad campaign.  It is another to execute a project that may have more grave consequences (such as securing a multi-million client with an out-of-the-ballpark proposal) whose members span continents and who speak many different languages and who may all have a different strategy to meet the group’s goal.  A little more complicated, right?

But it seems that IM in the workplace is no stranger.  Why is IM used by companies to encourage inter-departmental communication among employees?  Why is it not?  How many companies are using IM or video-chat tools to meet their responsibilities to international partners or to provide services to international clients?  Is IM an effective communication vehicle for multi-cultured business groups considering the different languages involved and varied comprehension levels that stem from a rainbow of cultures?  Is language even a barrier in online communication?  Has the formality of corporate communication officially dissolved?  These are the types of questions I will explore in my final paper for my Intro. to the Digital Age class.

I invite you to join in my exploration.  Does your company encourage employees to use AIM or Yahoo messenger or any other IM program to exchange ideas with each other?  Does your company offer services to international businesses, and if so, what is the preferred method of communication – IM? video chat? email? traditional in-person meeting?  What is your initial reaction to IM In the workplace?  Do you see it as a smart way for companies to communicate and strengthen relationships overseas?

Send me your thoughts, ramblings, questions on the topic.  And if you come across anything that’s interesting on my topic, send them my way!  

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I seem to keep jumping on, then jumping off this digital culture bandwagon.  I can’t keep still.

Sometimes I can’t get enough of the ride, the technological turns that make me Oooh and Aaahhh, and then other times, I feel so sickened by another ridiculous gadget that’s cluttering my digital head, that I want to say To hell with it!  I will snuggle with my book (yes, book) and be happy with the contained knowledge held within.

But then the bells of the wagon come a-ringling…and I open the pages to John Battelle‘s The Search.  I can read it, watch a video of Battelle summarizing it, join a Google Group discussion and chat about it, read others’ blogs about it, and on and on.  (If you haven’t caught the ad nauseam nature of the previous sentence, you may not get the point of this post.  Stop reading now.) 

Welcome to the Google lovefest.   Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m all for love and all for fests, but I am not all for aimlessly jumping into the throes of a completely digital society without considering what impact it has on our souls. 

Here’s what unsettles me most about Battelle’s discussion of Google being the All-Supreme-Search-God-of-the-Americas-and-the-Land-Beyond-the-Americas:

Google may archive our intentions into one database, but do they really capture the essence of who we are as a people?  Battelle never discusses the essence of being human.  He says we all have desires and birth them by entering keywords into a search box, but this sounds like two-dimensional behavior to me.  We perform an act when searching for that perfect birthday gift, or the cheapest textbook, or that high school lover, but Google can infer no meaning from our acts.  Google cannot capture the essence of our wanting, the magical potion that makes us human.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love Google.  I love gchatting with friends; I love that gmail saves all of my emails and conversations; I love seeing that McDonald’s-esque ticker telling me how much more space I can fill with my daily banter making me feel like what I say is very important and should be preserved for all of eternity; I love Google’s seeming simplicity (even though now I know how complex the machine really is, thanks to Battelle); and I love the idea of geeks getting the credit, and filled pockets, they deserve.

But, should we really go ga-ga over Google?  What is it really doing for us?  How is it nurturing my soul?  If to nurture means to provide me more digital potholes where I am distracted by things to buy, trivial information to clutter my brain, endless banter and blog vomit to choke my precious day, then I say No thanks. 

I’m not saying that Google is a digital pothole.  But considering the dark side of a digital kingdom is all part of  wearing the crown.  If Google wants to own it, it must take some jabs.

I’ll just keep watch with my virtual trident.

I must have been a little grumpy in my last post about Scoble and Israel.  By the time I finished their book Naked Conversations, I was applauding blogs and their potential to unite this very fragmented political world.  OK, maybe that’s a little hyperbolic (and a big No-No according to the authors when it comes to blogging), but I have honestly grown fonder of blogs and the nature of the blog as a machine.

So, how has Scoble and Israel dissolved my granny perspective on blogs and blogging despite my sometimes hatred for feeling obligated to be part of a schizophrenic community of web geeks?  They made one significant point that caught my attention.  Blogging allows positive ideas to be born, to flourish and to gain an effective and powerful voice.  (And that being a web geek is a cool thing nowadays.)

Scoble and Israel’s story of Michel-Edouard Leclerc was particularly touching to me because Leclerc really seemed to get why we should communicate with others effectively, why we should attempt to connect to others, why blogging can be important.  Leclerc describes blogging as a way to be humble and to learn alongside with others without the pretense of “teacher and pupil”.   Despite his tremendous popularity, Leclerc prefers blogging as a method of service rather than succumbing to the requests of his people to lead them in political office.  Blogging as a means to serve others is a very powerful idea.

My hesitation towards accepting anything new and kitschy in digital space has grown from the fact that there is something new and kitschy offered in the global, one-stop digital shop, every single day.  If there are endless innovations to play with, how do we ever learn the whole scope of possibility that lies within each “tool”?  How can we really advance as a people when we treat digital distractions as a 5-year-old treats a brand new toy?  When can I say Enough! and be content with my Treo, MySpace, FaceBook, flickr, delicious, BeBo, lastfm, Pandora, Google Reader, LinkedIn, twitter, tagged, gchat, Yahoo messenger, and who knows how many more I’ve been invited to join by friends that I don’t even have the password to anymore.  Maybe I’m not as digitally-responsible as this one (I check  only a few sites on a daily basis and am surprised the others have not imploded from inactivity by now), but I think I make a solid effort. 

I even blog myself.  I blog because I am a writer and need to analyze happenings and the people around me to make sense of this life.  I blog to offer a perspective to others that they may not be familiar with.  Scoble and Israel would be disappointed in my blog as I rarely link and my instructor may argue the validity of it being a blog at all because of this very point, but I blog for the same reason as Leclerc.  To maintain humility.  To better understand human inconsistencies and special gifts and quirky behaviors.  I blog in the chance that I can offer something of value to anyone who will listen.