“Let’s connect up!” A former American associate of mine used that phrase all the time and nice lady that she is, those words always had an empty, rather dread ring to them. “Connecting up” invariably meant participation in a teleconference where, blind to each other’s facial expressions, attire – hairstyles! – the contributors to the so-called ‘conference’ were left anxiously trying to assemble layers of meaning and depth from each other’s lifeless pleonasms. The communications experience was never much better when we actually saw each other; teleconferencing offered its own unique brand of awfulness, which unvaryingly got in the way of good discussion. Of course there is nothing unusual about this type of experience – it’s common in fact, which makes it all the more dreadful. With all the technology that has come about to help us ‘connect’, much faster and with less effort than ever before, we have become ever more detached from real, flesh and blood relationships. Digital communications simply does not cut it when it comes to developing a relationship. Of course we all know the mantra, the arguments for communications technology. It’s an important tool that helps us to make plans more efficiently, and to stay in touch with friends and loved ones. It is a portal to our business world – to making money! It has even proved to be critically important to the cause of liberty and democracy, witness the events that led to the Arab Spring. And yet I feel that we’re all missing out terribly by confining ourselves to studying our smartphones instead of reading the faces of the people around us, or by choosing to text a few words to a colleague in the office via Skype when he/she is only a few feet away (oh, yes, this is really happening more and more now). I suppose we must keep faith and hope for common sense to lead us back to a sensible blend of technology and good old-fashioned human contact. Or perhaps those clever fellows at BT, Ma Bell, Deutsche Telecom or Telstra will find a viable substitute via interactive holographic technology, or some form of advanced avatar communications. Mmm, I believe that I would still rather shake someone’s hand and, err, smile.
Chris Moseley, 17 Mile Studios, Brisbane, Australia