Tuesday, February 07, 2006

IT supplier calls for digital speed bumps?

There can be such a thing as too much technology, too powerful an interaction with our contacts, clients and colleagues. It could be time to put some speed bumps on what we used to call the superhighway.

That's what William Davies is arguing in the February issue of Prospect. I picked up his article from a link at Authority, an intriguingly titled blog filed by Michael Cross, on the web site of public sector IT supplier Civica.

Simplifying and parodying a long essay, Davies seems to be saying that by texting and emailing wherever we are, and doing business online, instead of in queues in the high street, we are dissolving society. We aren't doing do "real" stuff locally, anymore.

I know that's a poor translation, but I think I agree with what he's actually saying. I know I value local things where I meet actual people (the book group, church, the theatre) more than my work areas, where increasingly it feels like I interact with a shadowy bunch of geeks.

I've notice a paradox when those local groups go online, and "real" contacts turn into online ones. My fellow thesps, suffering from panto withdrawal, have been spamming each other with amusing Internet links, but now those who are on work email addresses are starting to drop out, because it's invading a different bit of their lives, and their IT managers and bosses are complaining.

It's interesting to get the "speed bumps" idea via that Authority blog. Davies is suggesting that IT should be limited, and it's passed on by an an IT supplier. Does Civica actually want to limit the IT it supplies to local authorities?

In fact, Davies' essay winds up by pointing out ways in which technology can help to protect and enhance isolation and silence (um, in a good way). I'll be interested to see how that might translate into stuff that a company like Civica might deliver....

To end, I like this quote from Davies:

"Telecommunications technologies have effectively flooded the market for social contact, rendering the market value of that contact worthless, just as would happen to gold should alchemy become possible."

I might spam that round my thesp buddies...

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