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Posted by Tim Sheedy on July 7, 2009
It's been a while since I blogged - and even longer since I did something a bit light hearted - so I thought it's time to make a comment on something about tech that has been bugging me recently.
So Michael Jackson and technology seem like very loosely related issues - and they definitely are. But the death of such a "big name" is quite a rare occurrence - and it makes people think back to the last time someone with such a high profile passed away, and how they reacted then. And at the same time, it demonstrates how technology, that is ultimately designed to connect people, actually ends up keeping us apart (or at least reminding us of the fact that we are apart).
When I think back to the last big "star" that passed away, in any territory of the world connected to the United Kingdom, it was probably the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. This happened in August 1997. In North America, people have been comparing Michael Jackson's passing to that of Elvis, Buddy Holly, and the likes. Such big events act as markers of time. People remember where they were when they heard of Elvis', President Kennedy's, and Lady Diana's deaths. And often these were shared experiences - people remember who they were with at the time - as often they heard this information from other people. I remember driving on Spit Road in Sydney when it was announced on the radio that Diana, Princess of Wales, had passed away. I had my partner (now wife) and friends in the car with me at the time. We shared the experience, and somehow even bonded over it.
But it probably comes as no surprise that news of Michael Jackson's death first spread online. It was through websites, e-mail, twitter, SMS, etc that the news first spread. So when you ask people "where were you when you heard about Michael Jackson's death?", the common response is "at my computer", "on the bus", "in bed", "on the sofa", and even "on the loo" (we can thank BlackBerries and iPhones for that wonderful addition to our existence!).
So what am I getting at here? Ultimately, it is to highlight the fact that technologies that are designed to connect us, often end up reminding us that we are actually alone. As information moves faster than people, "shared experiences" are becoming rarer. Technology is changing our lives in ways that we don't yet understand. How will the fact that we are having less "real life shared experiences" affect us in the long term? Who knows - maybe not at all? But this is one of a million small ways that technology is changing human interactions - and while we have some clue where this change is taking us (and most of it is for the better), there will be some unexpected downsides along the way too. Of that I am certain.
So to take a leaf from my own book, I am sitting alone in a cold office at the moment and it's 1am and my beautiful wife is upstairs asleep ina warm bed! Time to turn off the PC and join her there!
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