A return to connectedland

There are few articles that had such a dramatic effect on me as Fabio Sergio’s 2001 connectedland. Fabio's discussed the way culture adapts and changes through technology use & how technology changes to meet cultural need. How we were all being bought together by connected technology. Changes in behaviour thanks to life in connectedland.

There are few articles that had such a dramatic effect on me as Fabio Sergio’s 2001 connectedland. At the time I was studying human interaction and how technology mediated (and disrupted) communication.

Fabio’s article discussed the way culture adapts and changes through technology use & how technology changes to meet cultural need. How we were all being bought together by connected technology. Changes in behaviour thanks to life in connectedland.

Peter Morville was quoted in the article:

“We use people to find content, we use content to find people”

Fabio expanded on Peter’s ideas:

“To me all of the above simply means that the medium is finally starting to reveal the message. Or, I am tempted to say, the message is emerging from the medium”

To digital natives this is old hat. We’ve all seen the ways this is happening. Instant Messaging, Facebook, email, internet dating, SMS; the information artefacts are all having a profound effect on our lives. A simple example is the way it’s more socially acceptable to be late to meet friends. Send a text message to say you’ll be 10 minutes late that’s more acceptable than being late used to be.

Not everything is easy in connectedland. Information anxiety is real, internet addiction has the same biological basis as other addictions, cyber-bullying, suicide-pacts online, phising scams, RSI, all part of living in connectedland.

Life in connectedland on the whole is a good one. I have refound long forgotten friends, made new friends, got a job, been on dates, discovered music, saved money, all thanks to life in connectedland. I’ve been lucky, I have the skills to live and work in connectedland. I’ve taught myself to use the tools, to speak the language, to learn the social skills for connectedland. That is the next challenge, how do we as information professionals ensure connectedland is open to all.

connectedland as a gated community

The original connectedland article quotes IDEO’s Naoto Fukasawa:

Design dissolves in beahviour

Or to put it another way, nobody notices a usable design – design that works is and should be invisible. That may explain why there are very few awards for good usability. Recently, I watched my Grandfather, a veteran of the air force WWII, trace the route he flew in his Lancaster Bomber across Europe before he was shot down. He traced it to me on my iPhone using Google maps. I didn’t have to show him how to use Google maps, he just got it. The design disappeared.

My Granddad has never used a computer before for many reasons but in using an iPhone he overcame what to him was the biggest barrier – technology wasn’t for him. Last year the UK Government appointed its first Digital Inclusion Czar; Martha Lane Fox to “encourage take-up of technology, to reduce barriers.” One of the largest and by far and away, I believe the most significant barrier to entry to connectedland is ease of use.

Opening the gates to connectedland

Part of my job is research, I spend on average about 3 hours a week watching real users use technology, some time with eyetracking kit, sometimes in their homes, sometime in their work place. I must have interviewed and researched with over 600 people in the course of my career all with one aim. To make stuff easier to use.

Fabio talks about how information professionals (that’s you and me don’t forget) shape the way humans relate to available information. The examples he uses have moved on significantly in the 10 years since he wrote the article – social networking sites were not around then. Social networks have been the reasons many people have started to live in connectedland. If your friends are having a party you want to be there – the simplest and most human way to encourage technology uptake is to do what your friends and family are doing.

A staggering 9.2 million adults do not use the Internet in the UK. It seems things are still broken at a fundamental level if 24% of people aren’t online. I’ll follow up this post later this month with what I believe is one of the biggest challenges facing us in connectedland – joining the dots.


Ideas of March

I’ve published this article as part of Ideas of March Chris Shiflett’s encouraging idea to expand beyond Twitter and share. Write more online and joint people like Alan Colville, Elliot Jay Stocks, Rick Hurst & the mighty Jon Tan and share your thoughts.

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