We've been already Howard Rheingold's guests in this weblog. (Check "Howard Rheingold: Learning from the 'Thumb Tribes'" for details.)
Today, he's looking at how "wearable computers create ad-hoc wireless communities."
Here is the main idea, introduced by Gerd Kortuem, a 38-year-old assistant professor, who recently moved to Lancaster University in England from the University of Oregon's Wearable Computing Lab.
As he sees it, the crowds who surround us every day constitute a huge waste of social capital. If you live in a city for instance, there are many who pass within a few yards of you each day who could give you a ride home, buy an item you're trying to sell, or consider you as dating material. Dynamic networking makes it possible to tap those resources through a momentary alliance among transient interest groups, "like people working in a given neighborhood, staying overnight in a certain district, or taking the 10:15 flight to Chicago," Kortuem explains.
Here are Howard Rheingold's conclusions -- but be sure to read the full article before arguing with him.
For the time being, small colonies of radio-linked cyborgs will be confined to campuses and commercial laboratories. Within the next decade, though, networked social encounters may well escape the desktop, perhaps riding on clothing -- our most mobile and intimate technology. What then? Could a Napster-like contagion break out among riders on a subway car? Could an ad hoc recommendation system connect you to strangers who share your commercial, intellectual, or sexual predilections?
Before the Net, community was mediated by physical proximity. Online communication reinvented the concept as a social sphere you could log into from your desktop computer. If Kortuem is right, one day the most important factor in social success won't be who you know, but who your wearable knows.
Source: Howard Rheingold, Technology Review, December 4, 2002
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