Ambient Awareness

Patrick, one of my online friends who I’ve become ambiently aware of over the past couple years pointed to this New York Times article about the micro blogging phenomenon and suggests what effect it is having on society. At least those who spend time on the internet.

Social scientists have a name for this sort of incessant online contact. They call it “ambient awareness.” It is, they say, very much like being physically near someone and picking up on his mood through the little things he does — body language, sighs, stray comments — out of the corner of your eye. Facebook is no longer alone in offering this sort of interaction online. In the last year, there has been a boom in tools for “microblogging”: posting frequent tiny updates on what you’re doing. The phenomenon is quite different from what we normally think of as blogging, because a blog post is usually a written piece, sometimes quite long: a statement of opinion, a story, an analysis. But these new updates are something different. They’re far shorter, far more frequent and less carefully considered.

I know I said the same thing about how blogging is such a great medium, but this article does a good job of detailing the workings and benefits of micro-blogging. Considering how little I’ve posted here lately, it kinda emphasizes how much I think you should give this article a read.


~ by Frank on September 6, 2008.

21 Responses to “Ambient Awareness”

  1. I am reading an article in the NYT

  2. I finished reading an article in the NYT

  3. You are posting comments too quickly. Slow down.

  4. I’m having breakfast.

  5. Oatmeal with raisins and almonds in say milk

  6. I drink a glass of orange juice to swallow my vitamins

  7. Omega 3 fish oil, Glucosamide and B-complex

  8. I’m going out on a hike with Poupoune our dog.

  9. I hope the sun comes out soon.

  10. LOL. Nice Marc. Yeah, it’s true that it’s kinda like that.

  11. But that’s really only a part of it. From my experience it is much more about sharing the interesting things going on, opinion, and interesting things you find. As Ed mentioned in his post on it, you can really pick and choose what you want to read. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a play-by-play of everyone’s day.

  12. “I am chuckling as I sip my coffee, reading this…”

    In passing, I paws to wonder what Marc’s dog, Poupoune, or the neighbour’s cat for that matter, would Tweet given the ability to type? No doubt, t’would be infinitely more compelling than most of the inanities that dribble across Facebook and Twitter. Fuck, I’d rather bite off my own nipple than jump on the Twitter band-wagon. Facebook I deem a necessary evil at best.

    That said, the NYT article points out that these micro-blogging tools are unmatched networking devices. I agree with that assessment. Facebook, especially, is much like a bulletin board (with emphasis on the bull); a great way to broadcast/organize events and share news very broadly, amidst all the flotsam of frivolty we must filter out.

    The article goes on to state “…deep relationships are still predicated on face time.” No shit. What is gained by scope, is seriously lost in depth. Ultimately, I’d rather be sharing a meal with you twice a month, than reading about the ensuing indigestion via status updates, thrice-a-minute.

    Blogging, on the other hand, is a different animal. It reminds me of old-fashioned letter writing to loved ones over-seas; a crystallized meaningfulness created by, and made more poignant because of distance (ie: virtuality, anonymity), not in spite of it. They are one of the most human inventions of the 21st century, and I mourn their caving in to the cult of snippets.

    ps: I farted at some point, penning this comment. Please note that fact duly.

  13. Thank you. I enjoy being belittled for things I find interest in.

    I was going to go more into why I find value in it and how the caricature of blow-by-blow accounts of one’s day is greatly exaggerated. But it appears I’d be wasting my time.

  14. Oh dear… 😦

    You must know that I wasn’t belittling you, personally, Frank – surely.

    Simply ranting about micro-blogging, in my usual emphatic, sarcastic way. The barbs of mockery aimed at the (abuse of) the phenomena in general – and not at you. Also, for the record, when i said I was “chuckling, reading this” i meant specifically Marc’s shinnanigans, not your post. (I can see how that could have been taken the wrong way.)

    No diss. Honest.

    4:48 p.m. “unslaked is contrite”

    4:49 p.m. “unslaked is much annoyed at self for not remaining e-mute.”


  15. I’m back from my hike!

  16. OK. Serious now.

    I also wasn’t belittling you Frank, just hijacking your blog comments. Maybe I’ll start Twittering sometime, after I’ve bought my iPhone. And maybe I’ll even join Facebook. But first I have to rest, my knees are killing me…

    It’s time to connect with people.

  17. I suppose I’ve been in a pissy mood all weekend. Too much work and too little sleep.

    I’ll say this about microblogging. It really depends on who you are following much like with blogs. Some blogs go into ridiculous banal detail on what they do. I remember one guy who would blog what he was going to watch on TV that night. Not what he had watched and what he thought. Just what he was going to watch. As with blogs, there are differences in how people microblog.

    What I’ve found is that as the article mentions, it allows a window into what your friends or acquaintances are doing or thinking. And unlike blogs, you can control who is seeing what you posts. It can stay as just a water cooler conversation between friends. And that is exactly how I treat it. Yes, the 140 characters can be a bit limiting and those issues that require depth can be blogged (for those of us who still have blogs *cough*).

    Yes, I also thought it was nothing more than another teeny-bopper fad of half-thoughts. But there is value in it and those I have seen who have tried it have also discovered that. Come drink the kool-aid.

  18. As a bit of a follow up, check out this comment on that same article. It really expresses both what value there is in both blogging and microblogging for someone like myself who now has limited time and great distance from friends and family. (Thanks to Martine who microblogged the link.)

  19. I liked his “you have to try it to get it” approach. It sounds simple, but a lot of reporters skip that step.

  20. Fair enough…

    *grumble, grumble*

    I’m woman enough to concede I am being close-minded and un-scientific. Surly, even!

    T(o) wit, I will open an account, take the damn thing for a test drive for exactly 2 months, and return with an empirical and lengthy analysis.

    See you on Twitter.

  21. OMG! OMG! OMG! *fans himself*

    This is going to be SO cool.

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