Saturday, October 22, 2011

Immersion in the Social Network

"It is the framework that changes with new technology, and not just the picture within the frame." Marshall McLuhan
For those of us who are almost never separated from a networked computing device, our computers and smart phones function as deeply integrated extensions of our mind and body. They immerse us within a virtual environment that overlays and permeates our experience of the physical environment.

With a little thought, it's easy to notice how tools such as the Web, email, instant messaging, social networks and media sharing have changed what we do in the world, but it is very difficult is to discern how they have transformed how we perceive the world.

A few weeks ago I realized that after years of around the clock immersion in the social stream, I'd become blind to its impact on my consciousness. Like a lobster in a pot, I didn't notice that I was less floating in the environment than cooking in it. So I decided to take a short break from social networks, news feeds and blogging in order to cleanse my perceptual palate.

As of today, I'm dipping my toe back in with intentional awareness. My aim is to notice how my use of the medium colors my perception of self, others and the world around me. I'll be exploring this topic here over the next month through brief essays, visual thinking, videography and music.

This first video is a riff on our unconscious immersion in the social stream. The audio track is composed of a string of tweets from my Twitter stream. The data overlays were taken from both my Twitter and G+ streams.

6 comments:

daleinnis said...

Very accurate picture of immersion!

It occurs to me, maybe just because it's late at night and I'm sleepy, to wonder if there's some significance to the more or less constant sexual frisson that SL adds to the mix, through the idealized and attractive AVs that we see and that we sometimes are... Although it's not just SL of course, media in general loves the buff and young and curvy...

Constant data input, plus constant low-level arousal, for various values of "arousal"? Does sound suspiciously immersive / attractive / captivating...

Botgirl Questi said...

I think you have something with the idea of the urge to keep a low level of arousal going all of the time, or at least to escape the state of low-arousal/boredom. One thing I've noticed in my social media vacation is the endless urge to fill every hole in time and attention. I find myself reaching for my phone dozens of times an hour, wanting to scan for something of interest on a social network or my new reader. It was only in going on a data diet that I noticed how pervasively I get the urge to drink from the stream.

Joey1058 said...

I find it interesting that you are floating, rather than swimming in the data stream. Good metaphor.

Botgirl Questi said...

Joey1058: For those of us who are connected 24/7, I think we are as psychologically embedded with the virtual environment as we are physically embedded within the atomic environment. We are not only within it, but it is within us.

splashkidd said...

It would be interesting to hear what your feelings are in respect to how you felt from both a cognitive and physical point of view when you decided to park your self onto the shoulder of the virtual speedway and just observe instead of participating in the race? My strong sense is that you felt all of the classic signs of what an addict feels in the early to middle stages of withdrawal, given your previous involvement in the social media racing series. If that is true, the question is, how strong is the need and/or urge to get off the shoulder and race along the virtual speedway again?

Botgirl, don't forget you have current and previous sponsors wanting you, and needing you, to get on that electronic track again! "Don't worry about the ever increasing speed of the virtual racing series" said the sponsors, "our technology will protect you"!

Botgirl Questi said...

splashkidd: I replied here .