Because I agreed to give a conference paper on the subject, I've been thinking a lot lately about the way the net moves information — and because I'm such a contrarian sometimes I've been led to think about ways in which the net-as-we-know it fails to move certain important types of information. My plan was to move on to thinking about what we could do about those failures.
Well, time out for a short-circuit as to at least one item on my list.
John Perry Barlow writes in BarlowFriendz: The Intimate Planet, about two lengthy Skype conversations with Asian women who picked him at random to practice their English.
There's lots of human interest in it all, but what really caught my eye was this:
The bottom line is this: they reached at random out into the Datacloud and found a real friend. And I feel like I have been graced with a real friend in both of them. Given the fact that I've been getting interesting messages from distant strangers since 1985, why do I think the big deal? Why is this different? Because these strangers have voices. There's a lot more emotional bandwidth in the human voice. I'm always surprised by the Meatspace version of someone I've only encountered in ASCII. I'm rarely surprised by someone I've only met on the phone. But one doesn't get random phone calls from Viet Nam or China, or at least one never could before.Skype changes all that. Now anybody can talk to anybody, anywhere. At zero cost. This changes everything. When we can talk, really talk, to one another, we can connect at the heart.
The potential of establishing a real emotional connection is exponentially advantaged. And I honestly don't think it would have been any different had they been guys. In the days since, I've received another random call from a guy in Australia. We talked, very entertainingly, for awhile. I'm glad to know him too. (He wasn't trying to practice his English. He actually seems to prefer his version. He was just doing it because he could.)
Anyway, I feel as if the Global Village became real to me that night, and, indeed, it has become the Global Dinner Party. All at once. The small world has become the intimate world.
I'm beginning to think this Internet thing may turn out to be emotionally important after all.
Lots to think about. And although it doesn't leverage easily into conversations about governance as such, it may be another step towards creating necessary preconditions for interesting things.