So…. I’m on Twitter now. And, after months of resisting it and wondering what the fuss has been about, I’m now newly wondering… what the fuss is about. Facebook adequately fulfils my telefriendship requirements, and this (underutilized) blog takes care of any greater need for web-presence. So, why Twitter?
Mainly, I’ve been wanting to investigate how Twitter and Twitter-like services can extend the reach of things into the internet. “Things” as opposed to “people” or simply “information”. I recently watched an Esther Dyson video where she posited technology whereby objects in the physical world report upon their condition and location online. So far, the internet has served mainly as a depository and coarse manipulator of human-supplied information. Sometimes it has served as a manufacturer of information and meta-information. It is as if we have been slowly transforming the physical world into virtual information and storing it. With the emergence of social networks and massive user-generated content, we are increasingly transforming our cognitive selves into virtual copies as well.
I’ve been very interested in seeing how the virtual world can reach back out into the literal world. On the coarsest level, this might mean increased telepresence, telesensing, and telecontrol; just as telephonics has shrunk the world of communication, so too might some future technology shrink the literal world. Imagine beyond the telephone (which extends my speech and hearing across the globe) to some connection which extends not only the remainder of my senses, but my ability to manipulate that remote point. As it is, remote devices can autonomously generate digital facsimiles of themselves, which I can then virtually manipulate; I want to see a proliferation of technology that allows the global networks transmit literal physical information as well.
Here’s another analogy: At one point it was common to type a letter and mail it. Then came teletype, and a letter typed into one end of a wire was typed out at another end. Then came the fax machine, with the physical media refined further for transmission. Now, email, where the physical media is completely abandoned; the method of transmission has become the message entire. The increased proliferation of mobile devices has now removed the need for physically-fixed entry and exit points for transmitted media. However, it is now becoming increasingly complicated to produce physical output/interaction.
I continually consume information, and sometimes produce it. Much of this information represents a virtual copy of a remote experience, object, person, or process. While both science and science fiction have been looking towards “virtual reality”, I find myself seeking out a “real virtuality”, where my online self is able to physically interact with actual experiences, objects, people, and processes.