Back in May 08 I had the good fortune of attending the Mesh Conference in Toronto. One of the sessions was facilitated by Nora Young, host of CBC Radio’s Spark program, interviewing Bill Buxton, a user interface design specialist. The session addressed the question “Does (Physical) Location Matter” in our modern time with an increasing number of ways for people to connect with each other and socialize online.
I’ve been thinking about this question from time-to-time for the past few months, and it actually relates to my M.A. thesis on how the Internet influences an individual’s perception of reality. Computer mediated communication (CMC) can and does affect how people perceive the world, and an individual’s understanding of the world around them.
Location is becoming less significant as the immersive nature of CMC increases. With the ability to interact using text, audio and video in a seamlessly integrated way the depth of interactions is certainly richer than in the past. The ease with which people can connect, whether through YouTube, Flickr, blogs or other socially rich web environments, increases both the number of people participating, and the cross-demography of online participants.
Conversely however, people are still flying around the world to do business, spend time together and interact face-to-face. The kind of sensory engagement that happens in-person is not replicated online – the ability to touch, smell, and taste things around us; and in-person three-dimensional and movable audio and visual environments, far surpass the replication of the real world through the Internet.
So does the future of the Internet involve greater sensory engagement, with smell, touch, taste, and 3-D movable sights and sounds? There is a lot of great research advances happening out there in these kind of directions, and certainly in order for CMC to replace the need for F2F interactions a full sensory replication will need to evolve.
I’ll elaborate a lot on some of these topics in future blog posts… anyone care to chime in in the interim?