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Touch Points

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 I have a Moto 360 Android Watch. People often ask how it is, whether it’s useful, and I give some answer along the lines that its great to have a watch that shows me the time in multiple places and is always updated to local, always right. It’s a true answer, but it it’s a partial answer. I can easily enough figure out what the time is somewhere else. What really matters is that those dials are a point of connection with people in those places. If they were to look at their watch now, that is what they would see. It’s a point of contact.

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 We live in a world of status indicators and updates. I catch myself at certain times of day watching for lights turning from yellow to green, green to yellow, as people start their day, or end it. The morning email missive, the going home tweet, the automated notification of arrival. We live in a world where we could sit down with family or friends at a distance of half the world and watch a movie, or a show, or a game together. The geography has shrunken in ways that we still have not worked out. My sense of place has little to do with where I am, or which countries I’m a citizen of, and much more to do with who is around me, and who I wish was also there. It’s about the interactions of a given moment.

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 People talk as though online interactions are sterile or shallow, that without the raised eyebrow or subtle inflections of voice there is something missing. This is also true, but also partial. The registers of online media also add, and can be just as rich: the shift from email to chat, from text to voice to video (or back), from synchronous to asynchronous, public to private, all signifying intent, urgency, interest (or perhaps annoyance). And finally silence, redolent of a million different meanings in all its different forms and intensities. We create meaning on the fly. Real meaning, whether that intended or that received, built on a history of actions and re-actions, “speakers” and “listeners”, creating layers of reciprocal affect, all built also on an increasingly dynamic landscape. A loop where more or less the same action might receive more or less the same reaction were it not for the shifting sands it is drawn in.

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 We are, perhaps, more enriched with sources of nuance, certainly of reach than ever before. More ways to see where someone is. More ways to hear how (they want to say) they are. And if that starts to sound uncomfortable it is hardly a surprise, looking as we are into an uncanny valley of human interactions. A world in which it is possible to reach across the globe and literally touch someone through a timepiece. Is the quiet touch on the wrist, the idea “I was thinking of you” needful, or helpful, or welcome? It could so easily run from wished for to feared; to frightening. And how is that managed, or negotiated, in a world so full of signal? In a world of proprietary locked down platforms? How do we make contact with each other, find each of the right boundaries, when boundaries are tied to those shifting sands?

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 It turns out to be complicated and contingent. The medium is only the message to first order; and the user is not the content. Each is tied to the other in reciprocal cycles of making meaning.

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 But it was probably a bit much to expect a watch to sort that out.

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 This was originally posted as “Touch Points” on Science in the Open on 18 October 2015

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Source: http://book-shaped-object.cameronneylon.net/wp/a-personal-digression/touch-points/