Thursday, June 11, 2009

consistency, connectivity, and consequences

When consistency and connectivity are at odds, it seems particularly paradoxical.

A while back, the NY Times ran an article about taking advantage of the anonymity of text messaging to help teens get sex education. One of the sex ed volunteers interviewed pointed out the importance of consistency.
"In offering this service to teenagers, he said, “you can’t say ‘I’ll be honest except or until.’ ” That’s often what happens with parents, he added, “when the child brings up something shocking, the parents tend to shut down.”
This is often what happens in business, actually. Particularly when it comes to connectivity: You can connect in this way (e.g. Outlook), but not this way (e.g. Facebook)…

Ironically, the article concluded with the idea that help, as offered through this service, stops at connectivity.
"I don’t want them to feel connected to me,” she said, “because I’m never going to be real to them. I’m a texter. I want them to find someone real to talk to.”
It makes me question the more literal sense of connection people have through technology and whether its dependent on the possibility of “real” connections.

Beyond services like or which have explicit goals of live connections, we know virtual worlds can be deeply emotional, whether or not you go to the Second Life Community Convention. I’ve experienced firsthand how certain flow applications can give you an awareness of your team you can’t have in the office. Neither of these happen in anticipation of live communication.

But then time and again you read about virtual relationships coming to fruition – the fulfillment, closure, and surprises.

Sandy Pentland’s research illustrates the differential value of face-to-face vs. email communication. Whereas email is optimized for brainstorming, face to face is required for integration and decision-making. Is this another way of saying connectivity without live consequence leads to limited intimacy?

Can we fully achieve the leverage of mass connectivity without a sense of consequence? Does consequence better afford consistency?

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