A round table. Two round circles: a larger one of people and a smaller, more intimate one, of laptops. This is a contemporary ‘discussion’ section. Screen yourself off, plug yourself in and off you go, into the world of word processing, passionate typing, modern communication. The faces of your co-students become blurred behind the open screen, you hardly lift your head any more, so engrossed are you in the discussion…
This is the truth of today. The truth of tomorrow is a round table with two round circles and a bunch of mute students, for due to constant twittering, facebooking, texting their vocal chords fail to produce sound. The classroom is filled with you-tube music to break the silence and the laptops keep chatting…
This is the somewhat dramatic worst-case scenario. But there is another script, a script of enhanced communication through internet. Yes, but what kind of communication? Tweed-chats, my-space rendezvous, facebook-walling? This is not communication, some would say, this is a short-cut, and a dangerous one. For once you fall into the trap of small talk, you might never get out and your life will be transformed into one big ‘cheers’ or ‘LOL’ or a dead, but always positive 🙂 smiley. Or you might have problems getting up in the morning unless someone pokes you or texts you or does any other of the virtual gestures to wake you up. For an alarm or a real voice won’t be enough. But again, this is the worst-case scenario.
There is however a way, I believe, to avoid it. A way different to some anti-technology extremists’ ways of disposing of the computer altogether. We can make use of it; make use of all the frequently criticized social sites in the name of true socializing. The site I am working on at the moment is up for encouraging people to meet in real life, to talk in real voice, to join in common initiatives. It brings people together, at first in virtual world, in order to help them find each other and form groups. No laptop is allowed once the meeting is scheduled: but this very laptop can help immensely in finding out about people living close to you and events organized just round the corner from your house. Organization and first contact accompanied, by a high dose of small talk, should be relegated to the web in order to pave the way for the next stages of acquaintance.
This is the idea – a simple but an important one. The chitchat online followed by a football match on the field, a get-together in the pub, a disco night. Internet wont substitute real ‘kicking of the ball’, ‘shot’ or dance, but it can make them happen. Or, at least, it can make you join in, find out and overcome the first social barriers or your shyness. It can be our friend, our ally in finding people and communicating with them.
So enough of worst-case scenarios. Let’s follow a positive script. Find your people, find your groups and make your way out into the open. For an open land is far more exciting than an open screen: it doesn’t blur the sight, but gives a refreshing, exhilarating touch to any talk you might have out there.