09:45 AM

An intimate conversation in the global village

by Doug Millison for SiliconValleyWatcher.com

Do the Internet-based voice and multimedia communications technologies developed in the Greater Silicon Valley really bring us closer together? One wired world guru argues yes and tells a beautiful story that illustrates how.

Reports John Perry Barlow, in an article worth reading in full, about his experience in becoming friends over the internet with a stranger because he could hear her voice:

The bottom line is this: they reached at random out into the Datacloud and found a real friend. And I feel like I have been graced with a real friend in both of them. Given the fact that I've been getting interesting messages from distant strangers since 1985, why do I think the big deal? Why is this different? Because these strangers have voices. There's a lot more emotional bandwidth in the human voice. I'm always surprised by the Meatspace version of someone I've only encountered in ASCII. I'm rarely surprised by someone I've only met on the phone. But one doesn't get random phone calls from Viet Nam or China, or at least one never could before. Skype changes all that. Now anybody can talk to anybody, anywhere. At zero cost. This changes everything. When we can talk, really talk, to one another, we can connect at the heart.

Barlow tells a heart-warming techno-tale that shows how Internet telephone technology can make the global village a more intimate place.

More communication is generally a good thing, but I still have my doubts. Even in a best-case scenario as Barlow describes, won't we still wind up in front of our computer screens, talking into the aether, isolated?


The Intimate Planet, BarlowFriendz, 24 January 2005

What's the story? Doug Millison also edits OnlineJournalist.org, "on a need-to-know basis"