Is Time and Space Collapsing?

by Jay Deragon on 01/07/2008

Collapsing Time & SpaceDo some of you remember those large heavy bricks some of us so proudly carried around in the 1980’s called “mobile phones”?The first one (1984) weighed 2 pounds, offered 30 minutes of talk time, and sold for $3,995! But now look where we are! Or for those who are a bit older, how about the first “portable computers” that were portable only in that they had a handle on the top of a 30 pound box! My how the cell phone and laptop has changed.

Any history of cell phones starts with Samuel Morse. He conceived of an electromagnetic telegraph in 1832 and constructed an experimental version in 1835. Then, on October 18, 1842, Morse laid wires between Governor’s Island and Castle Garden, New York, a distance of about a mile. Quite simply, Samuel Morse’s telegraph was the first device to send messages by electricity.

Time and Space are collapsing

Fast forward to the 1970’s. The first cell phone call caused a fundamental technology and communications market shift toward the person and away from the place. The web followed form by moving away from connecting people to things and shifted towards people connecting to people.

Now we’re witnessing the convergence of social networking both online and with our mobile devices. While the adoption is revolutionary the technology and related benefits are in their infancy stages. Much of the current stages of “social networking” are about discoveries.

A Fortune article discussed “The Hidden Workplace“: the power of informal networks within the workplace and how these networks are used to get things done despite corporate barriers to relationships and productivity.The Fortune article provides some additional links that are worth looking at such as the New Roundtable site by Rob Cross who recently published the book “The Hidden Power of Social Networks” and Orgnet.com which are both focused on the details of social networks and how to bring these otherwise invisible patterns into focus.

This type of work is the crux of the Fortune article, and it outlines the work being done with SocialMapping Networks Network Analysis (SNA). The article has some very illustrative examples of how some diverse organizations have tackled problems such as energizing a sluggish culture, grooming leadership, keeping the talent happy, and improving collaboration. In both cases the analysis of network “traffic” is able to clearly show the “hubs and spokes” of a network—be it a data network or a human network. In one of the cases outlined in the “Hidden Workplace” article, 300 peak performing executives and senior managers from Lehman Brothers, a large investment bank, worked with Rob Cross and Network Roundtable and:

“….. generated a graphic for everyone, a web of nodes and networks that allowed each executive to see who is connected to whom. The analysis assessed the strength of each person’s network relative to others in Cross’s database. It also mapped information flows. Several types emerged, including “connectors,” who had the most extensive direct ties, and “brokers,” who had the most diverse networks and who were key to getting things done. Then there were the ‘bottlenecks,’ who— either because they were overworked or because they hoarded information—kept things from happening. All the employees were able to see if they were on the periphery of networks or in the middle of them.”

All things Old become New: Time and Space are Converging

A book titled “The Formulary for a New Urbanism”, by Gilles Ivain alias Ivan Chtcheglov, written in 1953 and published in 1958, states ” The architecture of tomorrow will be a means of modifying present conceptions of time and space. It will be a means of knowledge and a means of action. “

” We have already pointed out the need of constructing situations as being one of the fundamental desires on which the next civilization will be founded. This need for absolute creation has always been intimately associated with the need to play with architecture, time and space..”

The architecture is the interface of people and technology. Consider the waves of changes caused by desktops, laptops and wireless devices. Now add to the equations the evolution we will experience in what is known today as “social networks”. The convergence is accelerating constructed situational circumstances, chaos of the moment.

Constructed situations are defined as a moment of life concretely and deliberately constructed by the collective organization of a unitary ambiance and a game of events. People conversing and connecting to other people globally with the only geographical reference being the “social web” . The effects of these constructed situations are known as psychogeography: The study of the specific effects of the geographical environment (whether consciously organized and defined or not) on the emotions and behavior of individuals.

The old knowledge discussed above has become new by the endless discoveries enabled by the social web. Today’s social web is much like the old Motorola brick phone and the first 30 pound laptop, it is today’s constructed situation.

Over a period of roughly 20 years both the cell phone and laptop features, functionality and size changed dramatically and has influenced every aspect of life. In less than 10 years the social web has created a wave of people (over 500 million) discovering the power of conversations and the dynamics of connecting one to one to millions. The functions, features and size of the social web will change faster and more dramatically than did the previous mediums discussed.

Given the accelerated rate of technological changes it won’t take another ten years to bring the social web from infancy to adulthood. However, it may take longer for people to adapt to the newly constructed situations that will arise from the evolving discoveries which follow the evolution of the social web. Whether for personal or professional motives, adapting to the changing environment rather than complaining about the current situation may be the difference between success and failure in the newly constructed networked world we live in.

What say you?

{ 1 comment }

Mark Kerrigan January 8, 2008 at 5:46 am

Again, Jay, your insights are awe-inspiring. I think your post does touch upon one key element of technology: performance.

My first computer, a Commodore-64, seemed, at the time, like it was the be-all-end-all of the computer world. Yes, it was slow.
V-E-R-Y S-L-O-W! But I didn’t notice because it was the first thing like it I’d ever seen.

Now 64-K MIGHT get your OS to boot, but even that is doubtful. You said in your post that with the Brick-Phone, people had 30-minutes of talk-time. Wow! I know kids who have longer phone conversations than that!

I think it’s amazing how far technology has come in the past 20 or 30 years. Not only is size not an issue, but the actual performance of the machines have improved.

In the next 10 or 20 years, the concept of having to be connected to – by the wired web or a “network” like Verizon – will very likely become as foreign to us as Morse code and using the telegraph!

Great post, keep ’em comin’.

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