For the last couple of weeks, I've been struggling to come up with an appropriate blog post. Today, it occurred to me that in my last few posts I addressed how people interact with computers, but I haven't yet talked about how computers are changing how people interact with each other. I was reminded of this while watching a recent talk from a Kansas State University Professor named Michael Wesch, whose thought-provoking videos on YouTube have really lit up the blogosphere over the last year or so.
Wesch has done an excellent job of documenting just exactly how technologies like YouTube transform the way we interact with one another, coming together in new ways to form communities that would not have been possible even four or five years ago. In the talk, he mentions author & Harvard Professor Robert Putnam, who's concerned that in America, the role of community and family may be diminishing. (In an NPR interview, Putnam cites some depressing statistics, such as a 60% decline for picnics, a 30% decline for families eating dinner together.) Despite these statistics, Wesch contends that we have new systems for interacting with one another, and this allows for people to come together in strange and wonderful ways.
If American communities are truly in decline, that would explain the recent surge of interest in social networks like Digg, Twitter, Facebook, etc., etc. People need personal interaction. With social forces like urban sprawl and career divergence splitting friends over greater distances, it's nice to have tools to help bridge that gap.
What tools do you use to keep in touch with your friends and family? How would you like to see these tools evolve over time?
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