Posts Tagged ‘google’
When will the cloud break your heart?
Digital natives may be a lot of things, but one thing is certain: they aren’t too worried about technology. For them tech is a fact of life, like air and electricity and coffee—always there. Always ready. All slick and wireless and greased to go. That’s why Facebook is mostly just a free $13 18 20 billion Rolodex and Google is a verb. Thus has it always been. And so it shall always be.
Except when it isn’t.
Digital natives have abandoned themselves to the cloud assuming it will always be there. Mostly they don’t have a plan B when stuff goes away. Plan B is to call friends for numbers and addresses and recreate what they had before—but that’ll never happen because Facebook will be there, right?
I don’t put myself in the digital native category, which means I remember a bunch of dumb old stuff like phones with cords and 5 ½ inch floppy disks and, well, I won’t bore you with a kiln-load of nostalgia. But I retain crisp memories of this: important stuff vanishing with a bad piece of media. And an old computer simply destroying things I’d spent lots of time on. More than once. And that lesson stuck. That’s why my contacts and files reside in multiple places, including the cloud. That’s also why I do not assume Internet access in my travels. Instead I have this dumb game of searching for Wi-Fi wherever I go: just last week I ran across a signal called “Chuck Norris” in South Minneapolis. My many experiences losing important information have made me happy to seek redundancy.
The sales woman at the AT&T store has no problem storing contacts, messages and files with Google. Same with millions of us. Who cares if Google scans our communication and sends the right advertisers our way? Who cares if Facebook is about to have one of the largest IPOs in history, based on the dumb comments we type and the hours we spend on the site? Nobody cares—we get what we want out of the deal. We chat with people and divert ourselves with dumb games. Half of Americans think Facebook is a passing fad—and GM thinks their advertising with Facebook is a waste of money. Even if both of those are true, something more enticing and powerful will surely rise next.
I’m guessing down the road we’ll realize the much larger issue was not about losing stuff. And the larger issue maybe isn’t even that we’ve given away the keys to our connections between friends, family and acquaintances. We have yet to understand the full impact of this progressive-thought harvesting, but I’ll admit Nick Carr’s post on digital sharecropping has set me to thinking about where I spend my digits. It also makes me reluctant to entrust everything to the cloud and the enterprising folks who manage it.
Clay Shirky, writing in “Here Comes Everybody,” argues effectively that with the lower transaction costs for forming groups (caused by social media), there are more possibilities than ever to pull a group together for most any reason. Dan Pink wrote yesterday of a social media-driven mobile hair-cuttery he saw at Google headquarters. Whether your focus is major profits, minor prophets or mingling in Provence, there are all sorts of new opportunities for banding together around a passion. All it takes is strategic use of the tools freely available, plus the willingness to reach out.
I’m asking my Writing for Community class to brainstorm the contours of the opportunity before them as they seek to build communities. With a passionate leader encouraging group sharing, what sorts of things are possible? We’re already seeing examples every day, from the high-schooler who tried to get released from being grounded by amassing thousands of fans on her Facebook page (her parents remained unimpressed) to the seemingly spontaneous “I’m with Coco” protests.
Depth of passion may well be the limiting factor. Just what am I willing to do to make my point? How far out will I reach?
I look forward to the promise of voice commands on every field in my smart phone, which is noteworthy in the Nexus One. I’ve just discovered that my AT&T Tilt responds to voice commands. Sorta. It’s true there is a feature that allows me to talk at the phone. I can get it to recognize most of my family’s names, though my son’s name always starts a Latin Jazz tune from the Columbian band Sidestepper (preloaded on my phone). Annoying. Does my phone purposefully misunderstand me? Even when I use my best clipped public speaker voice, my “Call Mike Flannigan” never results in anything but contact information for Mark Whalen. I may say “New Appointment” and, well, nothing happens. I can lower my voice. I can slow my voice. I can speak closer to the microphone. But…do I need to work on persuading my telephone to do my bidding?
Most of our rhetorical situations involve people. Usually a speaker and an audience. As a copywriter, I’m most often thinking about persuading some target audience with a written medium—but you see the point: people persuading people. Aristotle wrote about the elements of persuasion and talked about using pathos (emotion), ethos (character) and logos (logic) to get attention (and buy-in). All of these are available when we interact with fellow humans. But which of these is needed for telling my telephone what to do? My phone can’t judge my character (or…can it?). I know it relies on logic, especially when I tell my Tilt to do things it was never programmed to do. But pathos…. Do I need to speak kindly to my telephone? What kind of relationship am I about to have with my telephone?
My wife travelled with a friend not too long ago. The friend called her son using a voice command. Though weaving through traffic at highway speeds, she spoke his name in a low, calm, soothing way. She spoke slowly and got through with her practiced recitation. She knew exactly what her phone would respond to. And that’s what she gave it. Once connected, she went back to her higher, quick-moving manner (which her son knew all too well) and persuaded him of something in short order.
We’ll adjust to new technology. We’ll learn to use voice commands to accomplish stuff. But I am starting to notice the relationships I have with non-human stuff: my phone. My computer. The lamp in my office. Is there a limit to the number of relationships I can have? Do my relationships with stuff crowd out my relationships with people?