Crossing the Digital Rubicon: Am I Online or Offline?

This week’s On the Media podcast offers a fascinating segment about “What It Means to Be Online“. The piece cites a recent media survey by the Forrester Group which showed a decrease in the number of hours people report spending online. On the surface that might lead one to believe a digital backlash is underway, that people are finally tired of all their digital stuff and are setting their computers aside.

Not so fast. Turns out, people are spending more time than ever online. In fact, we spend so much of our lives online now that is getting hard for us to separate what is online time from offline time. A lot of the blurring stems from the vast amounts of time we spend online using portable devices. “Going online” is no longer an event, the way it was a few years ago. “Going online” no longer requires that one sit at a computer and dedicate time to searching, surfing or browsing the ways we used to. Turns out we spend vast amounts of time online without realizing or thinking about the time as being “online” because it blends so well into our regular routine.

Think about how many times a day you spend checking Facebook or Twitter on your smartphone. Or using Facetime or Google Hangout for a quick conversation. Or just sending a quick email to someone (maybe yourself) reminding them to do something.

Turns out we grossly under report the amount of time we spend online because online times blends so seamlessly into our daily routine. And it is only going to become more pronounced. Consider the blur that will happen when wearable, augmented-reality technologies like Google Glass become the norm and  our world is mediated through a digital filter. Pretty freaky stuff.

The author does a nice riff on William Gibson, the Matrix and Existenz. Really a great post. Well-worth your time to listen.

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