SocioConnectitis: Addicted to #Connected #Media

Mobile devices and technologies have afforded us mere mortals the ability to communicate with each other, answer practically any question, access practically any media or content available on the Internet, and entertain ourselves in ways never thought possible 10 years ago.  Since the advent of data communications over cellular technologies such as GSM/GPRS, EV-DO, and HSPA enable the immediacy of these desires.  The air interface alone, however, is not enough to allow flesh and blood to engage and interact with the digital media in that virtual netherworld.  We need devices.  Blackberries, Droids, Symbian devices, and my favorite, the iPhone, bridge the chemically and electrically induced emotions and needs for digital “connectedness” and the digital itself.

But the ways our brains are being rewired where we grow accustomed to checking emails in the kitchen, updating our Facebook status in the bathroom (yeah, could be gross), following our Twitter community sitting in front of the TV, or posting a new vid to Flickr standing in front of the BBQ while grilling some steaks (hey, the thick ones take a while) is taking the “attractiveness” of mobility to all-new heights.

BTW, I’ve personally done all of the above on my iPhone while at home NOT sitting in front of my Mac.  In fact I’ve caught myself pulling out my iPhone to open up TweetDeck or WordPress WHILE I’ve been sitting in front of my Mac with TweetDeck or WordPress already open.  WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH ME?!?!

Nothing and everything, depending on your generational or conservative persuasion.  If you’re reading this blog, or especially if you’ve gotten to this post from a bit.ly shortened URL, you are likely also suffering from SocioConnectitis.  Defined as: “the insatiable and irresistible need to engage and interact with our social digital media and content. This is sometimes accompanied by narcissism (how many mentions did I get today?), paranoia (why haven’t those friend requests been accepted yet?) and a false sense of urgency (I really, really need to upload those Flip MinoHD vids to Facebook because I’m sure they’ll be helpful in curing cancer).

Where is all this headed?  For sure this second nature (soon to be first nature) act of interacting digitally won’t even be differentiated from breathing or waking up in the morning someday soon.  This is the case not just for industrialized societies, but even the poorest countries and regions are experiencing this.  Maybe not iPhone-class urges yet, but they get the notion of connectedness and those are the seeds of SocioConnectitis. And the device vendors want to cash in this growing behavior with the QUE, more Droids (someday they’ll be sentient beings), iPhone 4G (whatever that is), iSlate, Kindle DX x 10^8, and so many other windows into this digitally delectable world.

Now what? As Andrea True Connection says, “More, More, More.” Or Britney Spears says, “Gimme More.” I’m loving this disease.

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Too Strong to be Weak

I’ve always been intrigued and fascinated by technology and how technologies are adopted by people. In the past I’ve written about the concepts of strong-specific and weak-general. These concepts are not mine (I wish they were). Instead they were originated by Bill Buxton who is currently a researcher at Microsoft Research. I first learned about Bill while reading a book called The Invisible Future: The Seamless Integration of Technology Into Everyday Life.

The reason for this momentary occurrence of awakedness (don’t know if this is a word) to the strong-specific and weak-general concepts was from an article I recently saw in FastCompany called Tracing the Evolution of Consumer Electronics. What’s Next? The article is really more of a set of family trees showing the apparent origin of certain products back in the days right after the primordial ooze. For example, the Kindle 2 traces back to the original days when, ahem, paper books and book presses were the hot thing…can you imagine that! There are many other interesting lineages for the iPhone, Blackberry, Wii/PS3/Xbox, and other devices.

The core question presented by this article is: will a single device ever unite them all? In my most humble opinion, NO FRIGGING WAY! I could be wrong on this and I’m sure there will be technological innovations that we can’t even conceive of or imagine today.

I have an iPhone (3 in fact), Kindle (2 in fact), iPods, netbooks, media center PCs, PS3, laptops, Macbook Air, Razr’s, PDAs, a drawer full of cellphones and smartphones (the graveyard of those that didn’t pass muster), digital picture frames, cordless telephones, LCD TVs, LCD monitors, other MP3 players that came and went, and I’m sure a few other devices that I’m forgetting.

I believe the primary reason for why we will ALWAYS possess an array of strong-specific devices and NO ONE device will do all of what the FastCompany article devices do is due to how we interact with the devices and applications on those devices. For example, the way we interact (and expect feedback and interaction with us) with a music player is very different than how we interact and expect interaction with our senses with a cellphone. Granted, while the iPhone is supposedly a convergence of these functions and an adaptive screen and UI will present the varying forms of interaction, I’m one of many that will state the iPhone isn’t much of a phone. If I wanted a real phone, I’d use my Razr. The iPhone is more of a weak-general device and we all know its weaknesses.

The size and Mobility Quotient are defining factors as well. If the size is larger than my cellphone (my Kindle for example) then I won’t be taking this everywhere with me so don’t bother putting music functionality (yes, it’s in the Experimental section) or voice calling into it. If the Mobility Quotient is high, then I will generally interact with it on an on-demand, “snacky” basis rather than a more dedicated, in-your-face manner as I am doing right now on my Air. While I can write this blog entry on my iPhone, only large doses of mind altering drugs will compel me to do that.

‘Nuf said. But am I all wrong on this? Can flexible or rollup displays create a truly useful weak-general, one-size-fits-all device? Can voice, gesture, or Vulcan Mindmeld new interaction models solve the “keyboard barrier” that so many devices suffer today? Are we headed towards a Nebulous Future, per the FastCompany article, where it’s not about singularly and vertically designed devices but rather a distribution of functions that collectively create the experience? For example, the compute and connectivity is always in my wristwatch, but depending on what I am intending on creating or consuming the connectivity may be vectored towards a large display or interaction modality that matches my “intention”. Who, what, or how will that “intention” be determined?

Who knows. For now, I’m just content to speculate about Apple’s tablet device being announced around CES…I MUST HAVE ONE!