step away from the laptop...

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I had a lovely dinner last night with Allan Karl, at an excellent restaurant here in San Diego called Rainwater's on Kettner. No laptops or electronic devices of any kind were involved, which was a huge relief.

One of the things I've found most disconcerting about this conference has been the unwillingness of so many of the participants to shift their mode from the keyboard and screen to the real world of face-to-face communication. There's great value to the backchannel, especially in conference presentations where you can't speak out loud with your neighbors to discuss what's being said. But in the hotel lobby? In the restaurants? In the participant breakout sections? I remember when Steven Johnson posted about Clay Shirky's social software gathering last year--he noted that the backchannel seemed to suck the humor out of the room and into the chat. But at this conference, the backchannel seems to be sucking everything out of the room and into the chat, which I find depressing.

So, anyway, dinner. It was a great reminder of the real-world rewards of this new electronic community I've become a part of. Allan and I had a great time talking, laughing, eating, and sharing a bottle of wine. That kind of experience cements a friendship in a way that instant messenger just can't do. I don't use technology for the sake of using technology--at least, I try not to. I use it to enhance the things that I care about in my life--friends, family, my research. Yesterday afternoon I spoke to my kids over iChat audio. I arranged to meet Allan using email and IM. And I participated in great discussions about my areas of research interest during presentations. But all of those spill over into the real world, and I use them to enhance the real world, not replace it.

2 Comments

Great dinner, Liz. I enjoyed our offline time immensely. What a treat. I wish you peaceful and safe travel over the next month or two. You are in for some exciting discoveries and adventure. And I look forward to reading your impressions of the real world (offline?) of international travel and experience online and when we catch up next time face-to-face!

smiles

Oh, to be a fly on the wall at that dinner...

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This page contains a single entry published on February 12, 2004 3:32 PM.

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