HyperConnected: What Can Blue Do for You?

 

According to a 16-page IDC whitepaper (sponsored by Nortel) released in May, 16% of the current global workforce are “hyperconnected” and that number will (without a doubt) grow to between 25% and 40% “within a few years.”
(HT: Beth Kanter)

By all accounts (and my own admission), I am one of these “hyperconnected” 16 percenters. My mobile phone is always on (and always nearby). I’m on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Ning, LinkedIn, Plaxo, etc. etc. ad nauseum.

With a little help from my friend Google Documents, I created this not-quite-ready-for-GraphJam piechart to represent the 16% “hyperconnected” (blue) and the 84% non-hyperconnected (red):

So what does this all mean?!

According to Clarence Fisher’s analysis of the paper, “hyperconnected” people (like me) have the following attributes:

  • The boundary between work and personal time is virtually non-existent.
  • They use many more devices, channels, and tools then “regular” people.
  • Hyperconnectivity among employees has the potential to increase security risks due to lost hardware, software, Internet transfer of files, etc.
  • They are generally “early adopters” of new technologies, but only 1/3 of hyperconnected people actually see themselves as “early adopters.”
  • They do, however, consider themselves to be global people.
  • They are generally always on, always connected, and see this as a good thing.

Sounds like a fairly good description.

To capitalize on this “new reality,” Nortel has actually begun its own blog all about hyper connectivity, which features content like this short video:

As I’ve tried to explain the hyperconnectivity that Twitter, Facebook, and other new social media technologies provide, I’ve used terminology such as ambient intimacy and river of news. But I have yet to read a better description of what this hyperconnectivity actually looks like than Matt Balara’s post entitled “Why Aren’t You Talking to Me?” It’s so good, I’m going to quote it at length here (note: what’s in bold is my emphasis). Balara writes:

“I follow [Internet celebrities] on Twitter, so every day I have the feeling of looking through a pinhole at their lives, even though they wouldn’t know me from a hole in the wall. We’re continually in touch (even if it’s one-way) and they therefore have a kind of daily presence in my life. …

“But what’s this do for my meatspace friends? Steffen (the poor *******) is part of the ‘don’t get it’ crowd and isn’t on Twitter, or anything else online that we call social. He writes emails (rarely) and calls me occasionally. Although he’s one of my favourite people in the world, and we have a great time together when we see each other once a month, I know less about what’s he’s doing every day than I know about any number of people I’ve never met who’re sitting on the other side of the world. …

“Twitter and other online social tools have made it possible for me to have a kind of light, continuous contact with so many people, and this contact has become an essential part of my life. If those people are meatspace friends, it intensifies the relationship and saves us both time. Instead of asking them, ‘what have you been up to?’ when we see each other I can say, ‘I don’t really like it either,’ and without explanation we both know what we’re talking about. Meatspace friends who aren’t online are a conspicuous absence.

“In a way that I myself find completely unfair and strange, I’m starting to resent Steffen’s non-participation, as in, ‘dude, why aren’t you talking to me?’ …

“Sure, there are still some curmudgeons who still refuse to own a mobile phone, but they’re seen as stubborn outsiders. I’m looking forward to the certain future when hyperconnectivity is the norm, and I can help, soothe, laugh at and commiserate with all of my friends, whenever and wherever we are.”

Balara quotes Jyri Engstrom, founder of Jaiku (now part of the Google empire), who said in an interview with the BBC (dated one year ago), “Being-hyper connected will become a precondition for citizenship. In the same way mobiles are a necessity, in five years time being hyper-connected will become a necessity to be an active participant in the social world.”

So this shift toward hyperconnectivity is inevitable, and it will be essential. But there are always caveats, right?

Back in April, TIME magazine had an article about “The Hyperconnected.” Lev Grossman concluded by articulating some of his reservations, “Like any good pusher, services like Twitter don’t answer existing needs; they create new ones and then fill them. They come to us wrapped in the rhetoric of interpersonal connection, creating a sense that our loved ones, or at least liked or tolerated ones, are electronically present to us, however far away they may be. But I can’t help wondering if we’re underestimating the countervailing effect: the cost we’re paying in our disconnection from our immediate surroundings, in our dependence on a continuous flow of electronic attention to prop up our egos, and above all, in a rising inability to be alone with our own thoughts—with that priceless stream of analog data that comes not from without but from within.”

Writing this week in a newspaper column for the Raleigh News & Observer, one of my favorite bloggers, Ed Cone quotes Nicholas Carr from his cover story for The Atlantic magazine, “If we lose those quiet spaces, or fill them up with ‘content,’ we will sacrifice something important not only in our selves but in our culture.” Cone adds, “That, I think, is inarguable; it’s the reason I impose a bedtime on my computer each night. Thoreau was hip to related truths long ago, and one of the blessings of summertime is the opportunity to rediscover them for ourselves at the beach or the mountains.”

Ahhh, the beach and/or the mountains. Two reasons I love living in Charlotte, North Carolina: close proximity to both of these places. And, yes, it is good to unplug and go “off the grid.” I think this will increasingly become one of the gifts of the Church to the culture (as long as we, as followers of Jesus can get this right ourselves).


And then, just when I thought I couldn’t get any more hyperconnected, Steve Rubel at Micro Persuasion suggests even more ways to wade into (drown in?) the river of informationLord, help me ride the wave!

 

 

Posted on 06-22-2008

Comments

  1. david says:

    June 23rd, 2008 at 1:20 am

    i’m with ya, o hyperconnected bro.. i do wonder how much of this trend toward hyperconnectivity is related to your previous post on energy consumption levels though.

  2. Jonathan Brink says:

    June 23rd, 2008 at 2:28 am

    Steve, I think this is one of the better posts you have written in a long time. You gave me about six posts worth of thoughts to sift through.

    I left wondering how technology is rubbing up against our inherent design for community and connectedness. Is technology feeding what has been there all a long? Only we never knew it because the technology didn’t exist to reveal it. So the dependency becomes the sign of our own humanity and need for touch.

  3. Matt Balara says:

    June 23rd, 2008 at 3:06 am

    Had another good example of this just five minutes ago. A co-worker who twitters asked me how I’m doing. “Tired,” I replied. All she said was, “Jericho?”

  4. Steve K. says:

    June 23rd, 2008 at 8:09 am

    David, that’s a very good point. Obviously all of this technology that helps to connect us requires more and more energy. Google seems to be setting up server farms all over the place. And how green is Google? I have no idea, but they have become a huge consumer of energy.

    Jonathan, thanks for the feedback. That’s always encouraging to hear. I look forward to reading your thoughts/ruminations on some of the issues I’ve raised here.

    Matt, wow, hi! Thanks for finding me and dropping a note. That was a great post. I hope you don’t mind me re-posting large segments of it 😉

  5. A Connected World « Missio Dei says:

    June 25th, 2008 at 10:01 am

    […] A couple of days ago Steve Knight wrote a fascinating post about technology in our lives.  It really captured my attention regarding the drive towards hyperconnectivity.  Technology has an interesting way of revealing our desire for connectivity.  The more we embrace it, the more it seems to reveal something in us. […]

  6. Beth Kanter says:

    June 26th, 2008 at 10:21 pm

    I think it is a double-edged sword … especially this time of year when it’s time to shut off the computer and go outside.

  7. One Thing Meme « Missio Dei says:

    September 2nd, 2008 at 8:03 am

    […] will start this out by tagging: Jeromy, Monachus, Dave, Tracy, and Steve.  If I didn’t tag you but you want to participate, please feel free to join us.  I’d […]

  8. Todd Wold says:

    June 7th, 2011 at 7:28 am

    Good post. I recently finished reading Alone Together by Sherry Turkle and recommend it highly. Her volume of research over three decades is something to be reckoned with. Also, if you haven’t read it, you should read The Shallows by Nicholas Carr–a full exploration of the topics from his article in The Atlantic.

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