Hello, world. I’m MacDara Conroy, and this is my blog.

Thinking Out Loud About Presence And Extelligence

Matt Webb has recently posted a great string of entries on extelligence (the sum of the cultural sphere that we, as intelligent beings, both experience and contribute to) and its relationship to presence — that’s presence in terms of _telepresence_, or the emulation of real-world intercommunicative presence through technological means. (Don’t take these definitions as gospel — I just like to define ideas in my own words, to see if I understand them correctly; if I don’t, then challenge me! Discourse leads to greater knowledge, after all.)
The invention of the telephone probably gave us the first example of real-time intercommunication without physical presence. (I’m not counting the telegraph; despite its superficial resemblence to contemporary SMS text messaging — in terms on the restrictions imposed upon the user by the medium anyway — it was never exactly real time, nor intercommunicative.) But at least with the telephone, the voice you hear and speak to provides verification of physical presence in its absence; in recent years, as people have had the capacity to communicate in real time over computer networks without ever having to see or hear those they communicate or interact with, this paradigm has been abstracted much further.
It appears that the lack of verification (in most instances anyway) is the reason why the Internet as a whole, as it is today, is always (and for most people, forever will be) seen as a poor relation to actual face-to-face contact, even though its plainly obvious that a) the Internet facilitates communication and collaboration on a scale that would not have been fathomable even 20 years ago, and b) we don’t actually _need_ physical presence to achieve collaborative goals, even though it does seem to help.
As of late, there’s been a backlash against this pejorative trend from the emerging technologies camp. At least, that’s how it looks from my point of view, with the popularity of real-time collaborative technologies such as Hydra and so on, which when you think about them are essentially just the professionalisation of the chat room concept: certainly it’s a more targeted, refined approach, as opposed to the free-for-all atmosphere of traditional chat rooms, but is it really this great revolutionary breakthrough? Or merely mutton dressed as lamb? (Feel free to challenge me on this point!)
If there is a backlash, a better case would be made in terms of text messaging and its effect on mobile phone usage (in Europe, not so much in North America — the Far East is a whole other kettle of fish, and complicates the picture even further). In my own experience, I’ve had a mobile (okay, _cellular_) phone (the same phone I have now, as a matter of interest) for over four years now, since just before SMS was enabled on my network, so for all intents and purposes I can say that I was there from the beginning. And it has to be said: sending a text message is preferable to making an actual phone call for a number of reasons. Not only is it cheaper, but I often find it quicker and easier — especially if you don’t have the time, or don’t want, to talk to someone. Plus, for some reason, more often than not it still _feels_ like there’s a sort of richness or presence to it (for example, a few moments ago I got a text message from my girlfriend which, far from being a symptom of technological depersonalisation or depersonification, actually infers her presence more than it signifies her absence, and in turn all the things I love about her that make me go all mushy inside).
(On the other hand, even though I was there from the beginning, I never really got into the whole _txt msg slng_ thing: surely such abbreviated language is only necessary if the message that needs to be communicated is more than 160 characters long (or whatever the alloted limit is)? Maybe my habits are completely anomalous? Does this alienate me from the mobile phone culture? In terms of my participation, does this significantly reduce my level of extelligence? I wouldn’t previously have thought so, before I started thinking more deeply about it here.)
There’s a good reason why the symbiotic metaphor is used to describe our relationships with our phones: for the vast majority of us who have them, we would find life quite difficult — not impossible, but difficult by virtue of our delevoped habits — to live without them. (I say _phones_ when I really mean _any_ mobile communications device, but at present in Europe only phones have significant and suitable prevalence.) I ask, what’s happening to our extelligence in this scenario?
How can this concept be tied in with the bigger picture (our intelligent relationship with modern technology as both a facilitator and a surrogate for traditional intercommunicative standards/methods, and in turn this technology’s profound effect on our extelligence and _intention_ (in the logical sense of the word) with regard to our experience of and place in society) in order to devise a more inclusive/conclusive theory?
Or something like that anyway. Notes and comments are more than welcome.