- In what ways do you consider yourself creative or innovative?
- In what areas do you wish you were more creative or innovative?
- What stimulates your imagination?
- What are some areas within your industry or profession where innovation most needs to happen?
- Based on recognized problems and developments you have seen in recent years, what is the likely next wave of your industry or profession? What change is currently emerging?
- If you could change careers without losing any income, would you do it? If so, what would you do differently?
By Deborah Vrabel
Books relevant to the topic of Rich iPresence have been central in my reading this month. I just finished four that affirmed the concerns I expressed about fragmentation but also made me examine this project more critically.
- Digital Vertigo: How Today’s Online Social Revolution Is Dividing, Diminishing, and Disorienting Us by Andrew Keen (2012)
- The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicolas Carr (2010)
- You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto by Jaron Lanier (2010)
- Mindless: Why Smarter Machines are Making Dumber Humans by Simon Head (2014)
- The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in A World of Constant Connection by Michael Harris (2014)
- Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other by Sherry Turkle (2011)
Each of these authors warns that we underestimate the extent to which information technology shapes and controls our minds, individuality, relationships, economy, and culture. Reading them made me question whether iPresence could be rich at all.
Andrew Keen is an early Internet entrepreneur, the executive director of the Silicon Valley salon FutureCast, and the author of The Cult of the Amateur. He says we are trading our precious privacy and solitude for the empty status symbol of social media visibility. Heavy social media users, he says, are like “lab rats, constantly pressing levers to get tiny pellets of social or intellectual nourishment.” Those who are adding content to Facebook are not the site’s customers, he says. They are the product it sells to advertisers and marketers who want the personal data we readily provide for free.
Lanier is a pioneer in the field of virtual reality who has witnessed the rise of Silicon Valley firsthand. He says the predominant digital culture marginalizes authorship at the cost of individuality and creativity. He says the Web is dominated by “derivative expression” instead of work that is “genuinely new in the world.”
Carr is a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer who has published books and articles on technology, business, and culture. He says heavy use of online media reprograms the brain making it better at scanning and surfing but diminishing concentration, depth, memory. “When we go online,” he says, “we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning.”
Head is an Associate Fellow at the Rothermere American Institute at Oxford and a Scholar at the Institute for Public Knowledge at New York University. His focus is on the systems being used to monitor and measure workers, but he also spotlights how technology is being used to devalue the capabilities and experience of workers and middle managers, increasing economic inequality.
Turkle is the director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self and a licensed clinical psychologist. Her central idea is that we are reaching a point in history she calls “the robotic moment.” People are gaining emotional and philosophical readiness to “consider robots as potential friends, confidants, and even romantic partners,” a time when “the performance of connection seems connection enough.”
Harris is a journalist (or, as his magazine began to call him as it shifted from print to digital, a “content creator”). He calls attention to the fact that those of us born before 1985 will be the only people in history to know what it was like both before and after the Internet. Therefore, we are responsible to ask “What will we carry forward?” and “What worthy things might we thoughtlessly leave behind?” His central answer to the second question is that we may end up paying a high price for “the loss of lack, the end of absence.”
These thoughtful, well-researched works challenge me to think more deeply about how I and others who see the Web as an opportunity to express original ideas, engage in complex dialogue, and learn can counteract the negative side effects the authors reveal. Making iPresence “rich” may not be the road to fame and revenues, but I now believe it’s a worthy endeavor.
By Deborah Vrabel
In the last post for Rich iPresence, I talked about similarities between iPresence and what we might call “real human presence”–when we or our organizations are with the audience both physically and mentally, both giving and commanding attention.
Still, we need to stay aware that our iPresence is a virtual human presence existing in a virtual reality. It doesn’t happen the same way life happens. We create it out of the stuff of who we are and what we do. It is a combination of artistry, artifact, and artifice.
Artifice. When I talk about “artifice,” I don’t mean setting out to deceive other people by creating content that is patently false, as in “catfishing” on Facebook or creating deceptive pop-up windows. By artifice, I mean purposefully playing the games that sustain the illusion of the Web as more than a technology. Most of us accept the premise of making believe that this virtual commons is really a place where real communities gather. Then we promptly forget and never accept the need to do the work of community or sometimes even observe the rules and courtesies of community.
Rich iPresence means conveying awareness that we are placing our lives, our ideas, our opinions, our work “someplace” and that doing so matters. It asks: Where does my content belong?
Artifact. While iPresence as “artifice” focuses on where we are placing our content–what kind of context we are entering and producing online, “artifact” refers to the trail of individual pieces of textual and visual information we place online. Everything posted online by individuals, whether original or something recycled, becomes a cultural and historical artifact.
Rich iPresence is more than feeding the companies and industries that have the computing power to analyze trends and patterns for commercial purposes and providing free content to the aggregators. It means we think about the message we want these artifacts to convey–both individually and collectively. It means the pieces we place online have unity and coherence. It asks: How long and hard would someone need to work before gaining reasonably accurate picture of me and/or my organization as an online presence? Are we handing them a well-executed scrapbook or a hodgepodge of loosely connected snapshots? Will exploring our organization’s online presence be like a well-organized tour of a historical site or more like picking through old items in a thrift shop hoping to find something unique or valuable?
Artistry. While artifacts carry knowledge and convey history, “artistry” provides original ideas and a glimpse of soul.
Rich iPresence asserts that the “content” we produce through human thought and inquiry must be more valuable than the widgets and images and design elements we use to frame it. It means thinking about not only clearing a path for people to follow but also making meaning. It asks: Does my digital opus illuminate the purpose and meaning of my experiences, passions, contributions, and qualities? Are we populating web pages or living up to the vision of a global village?
By Deborah Vrabel for Rich iPresence
The Web offers today’s writers, scholars, experts, and storytellers an unprecedented opportunity to be “present” as society’s problems are discussed and new ideas, trends, or models emerge and take shape. Those who can make their views stand out in this democratic but kaleidoscopic marketplace of ideas have a distinct advantage.
Think Pond will interrogate, examine, and critique this social media “revolution” from different angles and present the alternative–Rich iPresence.
I’ll share some observations about the theories and issues surrounding this concept of iPresence. I’ll comment on books and articles that raise new questions or shed light on our dialogue. I’ll try to engage Think Pond members and others in conversations. To be coherent, I’ll develop a position paper examining those issues that builds on my 1993 Master’s project, which explored the potential impact of the brand new Web on the control and ownership of mass media.
Stemming from my own quest to integrate my “digital opus” and help some fledgling groups with theirs, I’ll provide some practical tools and ideas–and finally a white paper proposing integrated strateges–for using websites, choosing suitable social media avenues, and using other online media to create a coherent, meaningful, and useful online presence.