Phil Gyford


Friday 10 October 2003

PreviousIndexNext Sunsets and shared experience

You know how some people still insist that spending a lot of time online is sad? How living much of your time online means you must be a pathetic stay-at-home with no life? (If you don’t hear people say this, you obviously hang out with geeks and rarely meet “normal” people these days.) Obviously, they’re not aware of how online links can enhance this oh-so-important “real” life.

Case in point: Wednesday’s sunset in London. It was a rare stunner, and I stood on Euston Road gazing west at the distant square of visible glow between the buildings, as everyone around me rushed, rushed. But then I went to a class, went home, and forgot all about it. Until people started posting photos of it online and I could remember it again. Dan took one, someone else was up in the London Eye (via 2lmc spool), and others saw it from Shoreditch.

Sharing events with other people, whether online or off, makes life so much richer. Not only did I see McSweeney


"Someone else" has a name.

Ho hum.

Posted by rjp on 10 October 2003, 5:25 pm | Link

At one time you would see people talking to each other in the streets. They might even be talking about sunsets. People might think it sad that 'sharing' has become "posting photos of it online" rather than something you do face to face.

Posted by Richard Hyett on 11 October 2003, 9:55 pm | Link

Posting photos of events online doesn't stop people talking about it at the time or in real life. At the McSweeney's event I bumped into some old friends, and the following day met someone for the first time who'd also been there. IN ADDITION, I was able to read other peoples' experiences online.

Sometimes, yes, online communication replaces real life communication, but to assume this is always the case is entirely wrong.

"Someone else": No offence meant. But I don't personally know this someone else and sometimes it feels to me that using a person's name in this context is a bit presumptious, implying familiarity that isn't there. But maybe that's just me!

Posted by Phil Gyford on 12 October 2003, 11:08 pm | Link

Block capitals is shouting isn't it Phil? I'm not offended, perhaps your phone was going at the time.

Face to face conversation, talking in the street, does seem to me to be declining. I seem to recall that it was the mass media that always got blamed for the decline of public political meetings at election time. Similarly the company that recently decided to ban emails and certain web sites to employees, stated that they wanted their employees to talk more to each other, either face to face or on the phone.

It is an interesting discussion, don't you think?

Posted by Richard Hyett on 13 October 2003, 12:32 pm | Link

Wasn't meant as shouting - there aren't many ways to emphasise text in these comments.

Posted by Phil Gyford on 13 October 2003, 12:52 pm | Link

I'm with Phil. This rose-tinted memory of cheery street conversations seems like wishful thinking (also, untestable). The 'new media' is now actually reinvigorating public political meetings. I refer the honorable member to Phil Noble (of and his investigations into Howard Dean's use of etc. to "put the juice back into politics", as he put it, by which he meant engaging with people again. The number of actual physical face-to-face meetings in the Dean campaign has increased hugely, all via the internet.

Similarly the company banning emails may regret the move - it could just be a luddite boss (he never sent an email himself) and his lack of understanding of how new media can actually increase and enhance communication - alongside existing methods (imho). They're not mutually exclusive. One does not replace the other - that's an old discussion (McLuhan etc. - TV replacing radio, video killing cinema etc. Didn't happen). There may be evidence of social disenfranchisement in contemporary society (Bowling Alone etc.) but one can't lay the blame at internet's door. Most email conversation tends to be with friends and/or across the office.

I think Phil's exactly right to point out that these shared connections dispersed over time/space can augment shared connections that occur at same time/space. I witnessed the sunset with 6 or 7 people, as we all rushed to the window. I didn't email them - I talked to them (same time/space). I then communicated further via my photos/blog (extended over time/space). Again, not mutually exclusive, but mutually supportive.

Posted by Dan on 13 October 2003, 11:52 pm | Link

Can't really disagree with any of the above, I wasn't arguing for the mutual exclusivity of internet over face to face communication, sure one form of communication can augment another. You were fairly selective in your choice of devices, what about payphones and mobile phones, record players and CD players, local shops and supermarkets. To be sure local shops, record players and payphones still exist, but the numbers and usage are not what they were. It would be stretching it to say the the advance of one has been a boom for the other. There is a technological inevitablity about all this, and I'm not about to stand in its way. Your experience may well be of a resurgence in face to face communication, if so I find this heartening, thank you for that.

My impressions are slightly different. Perhaps the Internet is not that significant in this after all. Coming home from work on the bike, the afternoon of September 11th 2001, going through Bill Quay, I noticed people outside their homes on the pavement, talking to each other. Fairly obvious to anyone what they were talking about. You don't see so many people talking to each other on the pavement any more. A lot of places now, particularly with more expensive and newer housing, people just drive in and drive out, there is nowhere to walk to. People drive to work, they drive to the shops, they drive their children to school. Ninety nine times out of a hundred they use the car when they go out, neighbours don't see each other for months on end. (I know this doesn't apply in the same way to London where fewer people drive). I like to see people talking on the streets but you see it less and less. This is my impression, but I'm glad it doesn't seem to be shared.

Posted by Richard Hyett on 14 October 2003, 10:54 am | Link

Commenting is disabled on posts once they’re 30 days old.