Consider the three circles of dwell:
- Text: Text-based awareness; Text-based correspondence; Text-based two-way realtime chatter.
- Voice (Audio): Cell or POTS talk; Skype (if visual off).
- Voice and Body (Audio/Visual): Skype (is what I know).
Social dimensions involved from first contact:
- intimacy--how well we may know that person on the other side of the exchange;
- trust--how much we may invest or risk by way of affection, concern, effort, time, and money in the relationship whatever its character;
- Mutuality--determination of how much we may have in common and how much we may go on to do together.
Traditional Native American diplomatic invitation: "Speak, so that we may see you."
Since my Mosaic days as contractor (employe of one) at the Office of Naval Research (Public Affairs Office) around 1996, the WorldWideWeb, in the mere span of a dog's life, has grown up. What started as a system through which to publish information or exchange it at a comparatively horse-and-buggy pace (I'm thinking about bulletin boards accessed via dial-up connections--or accessed by dialing directly into the board's hosting computer . . . .) has become a highly democratized and global communications universe extending for the common user the reach of mind and spirit far, far beyond most geophysical, language, political, and social barriers.
Here we learn we are our minds as channeled through our typing skills, voices, and the manners in which we present our good looks, but if we really want to go somewhere, eventually, we may want to get the feet there too. Where relationships are involved, whether for business or love, that brings up the question of who, really, we have been "speaking" with and whether we're on a good track with them--accurately perceived (in both directions), secure, and in line with expectations.
Long before this but within the communicating-via-computer era, I have experienced a profound difference between relations bounded in text, abetted by voice, or, oh my god, visited in the flesh, and the difference is in the appraisal of the authenticity and social weight of the other party in relation to the arrangement, integration, and value of the personal sphere of relationships in its totality.
You exchange through text some remarks with somebody on the web . . . big deal.
Somebody picks up the phone, calls or receives, and there's the first and only "This is so-and-so", which whatever the concerns of the content of the call, provides the first experience of the voice--a somehow more real person has been added to one's social space.
Through Skype arrives the picture-phone of the 1964 World's Fair (and Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey) but without the handset: screen, webcam. Hands free. Et voilà: whoever it is is no longer someone with whom one has exchanged throughts by way of sentences and paragraphs in an interest group, nor someone with whom one "has only" talked on the phone, a voice in the wildness. Warts and all, dazzling as ever, there is that other person--and behind them: bookshelves, family rooms, kitchens, offices, bars (that would be me if we Skype with while I'm seated at my laptop computer), garages, workshops, and so on.
In my experience, voice-to-voice (telephone) has been the minimum contact level necessarily to exchange and respond to advice. A finely crafted letter may have its influence, but there's more of the animal--or two animals in earnest--in live conversation.
Voice-to-voice I would think also the minimum for establishing a meeting.
Take it up a notch (cue the grinning friends): actually seeing persons in their homes or workplaces (or both) in Sidney, the Scottish Borders, Haifa, Barcelona, Peoria (something like it but in Indiana) . . . and, perhaps magically, one may have a real conversation with a more than real enough person free of the masks and layers of artifice afforded by other web-based strategems or implicit in voice-only exchanges.
In the larger schemes of many things, what we have first taken up as new, cool, and nifty communication-enabling gadgets have by their numbers produced a novel and as yet uncharacterized global communicating behavior: we are talking, for sure -- are we speaking honestly, with integrity, about ourselves, about others? How are We using Our Collective New Powers to underwrite new or enhanced freedoms, improve our own autonomous-responsible personal behavior, boost human social potential and quality of life locally and globally?
Whoever you are, whatever your ambitions or designs, however you have put together you heart, your politics, your social networks, your career, and your money, in whatever way you have gone about improving the world or improving yourself, I am not even as far away as down the hall from you--and, of course, it works the other way too. Sooner rather than later, we're going to figure out how to work with one another as if sharing an office--or a household--and, inevitably, in some fashion, we're going to rearrange our "realspace" existence to do it.
May we all be honest with ourselves and others; may we proceed with caution; and, whatever goodness may come through all who have brought themselves into the New Expanded Communicating Community, may we sort out our issues together and be brave about it.
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