6. Here and there

Sherry Turkle explained the relationship with new technologies as ‘a new state of self or second self’. (Turkle, 2005) This place is somewhere where we have created an environment that leaves us physically present away from the emotional self or with divided attention.

With new and mobile technologies always available as a means of communication that can replace face to face -it is possible to always be ‘somewhere else’ (Turkle, 2011) and have a constant connection to the web. Our ability to use the medium of the internet for daily communication is a significant change in the way we are able to interact with others – and manage our own lives.

I could be writing an essay, (but will immediately address any incoming email) at the shops, (but will immediately access incoming texts) or using my mobile phone (whilst having a conversation). This constant access and exposure to multiple information sources has been written about many times, and is really an extension of 24/7 availability – but rather than belonging to a specific condition, it applies to everyone, both at home and at work.

Again this is nothing new – Linda Stone, a frequent writer and speaker on the subject, coined the term continuous partial attention (Stone, 1998) to describe the way we use partial concentration on one topic whilst holding the others on the periphery. Most recently, I have also found references to divided attention disorder – described amongst other things as ‘encouraging us to seek instant gratification at the expense of deep thinking’. (O’Regan, 2011)

The end result however is similar to ‘away from keyboard’ – (AFK) – a term originally applied to Second Life presence to explain the complexities of presence. ( Boellstorff, 2010) It is possible to be away from the alternative “other” existence, however temporarily, and as Sherry Turkle puts it: ‘what is not being cultivated is the ability to be alone and manage one’s emotions’. (Interview with Sherry Turkle, cited by Else 2006)

Wherever I may be physically, I don’t need to be emotionally or intellectually.

Businessman on mobile outdoors

Acknowledgement: Businessman on mobile outdoors © Getty Images