Hey, a girls entitled to change her mind…
Here are some caveats to that point…Larry himself, has already had to eat his words (okay it wasn’t that extreme) when he said he didn’t get Second Life as an education platform, and then had a reader point out how great it was for people with disabilities. This is a significant population that is often ill-served by our current education and social institutions and the online community has been a welcome advent for many (although many participate in “regular” schools and society too, thank you very much).
I started thinking about non-face to face relationships in the past. Yes, these did exist in the days before computers. First, pen pals and correspondence relationships go back far in time. This was illustrated nicely in the fictional account 84 Charing Cross Road. And as for organizing, look at how well Paul did with a few letters in organizing the early Christian church! Okay, I overstate a bit, but this is part of an ongoing process of using communication to reach out to others. In pencil and paper days, we have pen pals and other correspondence relationships. Party lines (the larger modern ones, not the old ones that just had your neighbors) showed people were dying to talk to complete strangers. CB radio (and its more technical precursor the HAM) had strangers talking to each other and becoming acquaintances and sometimes friends.
The written relationships were the most widespread. I imagine that blogging, et. al. will be bigger than pen pals were because of the ease of entry. Whether it takes the place of face to face, or is a significant part of most adults’ social life I wouldn’t want to venture a guess.
There is one area where the relationships will be at a whole variety of different levels of physical distance and that will be in work, and being able to flexibly adapt to working with a variety of people who are in a variety of different countries will be a skill needed for a larger and larger number of workers. My example of this is my brother in law who works with a team literally on different continents. They trade off conference call times because there is no time that works for everyone. By moving it around, they all feel the pain sometime. They use IM chat, email, and teleconferencing extensively. This is not an intimate relationship, but there I think back, and my face to face relationships with my co-workers aren’t that intimate either. I mean I like them, and I respect them, and we work well together, but would my relationships be any “cooler” if I only meet them over a conference call? I don’t know.
The professional relationships I’ve built up online over the last year have been invaluable to me because there are so few doing what I do where I am. It’s also nice being able to see Larry. I loved meeting with Brian, and I look forward to meeting Glenn someday. There are some things about my relationship with Larry that are closer than say, with Brian. We have the shared experience of working for the same district. In some ways though, I have feel closer to other bloggers because they aren’t in my backyard. My working in the same “place” makes me cautious so as not to piss in my pond so to speak. This may be healthier for that relationship in the long run. Who knows?
I think it’s hard to see the future. It’s easy to overstate “change” but I sense things are changing and have been for a time now.