Yesterday, I heard from a friend about a talk given in Canada about "reality". An online video provided me the opportunity to listen to the talk as well. Later, I told some friends about this, and got into a few different discussions about the talk.
The key point of the talk is that reality is reality, whether or not it is mediated via internet communications technology. I really am sitting on a couch writing about the talk and others really will read this blog post about the talk, or at least I hope they will.
The starting point was to encourage people to stop talking about "in real life" as if our lives when we are communicating via the internet isn't real. For many, this may be a new idea, but it is one that I often spoke about in text based "virtual worlds" over a decade ago, and it was good to see this discussion go a bit more mainstream.
And, the discussion has continued, some of it as I spoke with friends face to face (a phrase I like much better than "in real life"), and some of it as I spoke with friends over Facebook. I haven't spoken with anyone about it over the telephone, but I think it is useful to think about talking with people over Facebook as being very similar to talking with people over the telephone. In both cases, what we are saying is converted into electrical signals which get converted back to the message at some other location.
In the talk, @awsamuels talks about understanding that just as you are a real person, communicating online, so are the people you are communicating with. She suggests finding pictures of the people you are communicating with online, and having those pictures up on our screen as you write. This will make you more empathetic.
This presents a problem for bloggers. I don't know who I am writing for. There are a few tools that I like to use which help me do this. On my sidebar, you will see a Google Friend Connect widget. It has images for 347 (at present) of the people who have joined this blog. It also shows images of those that have recently visited it. I've used tools like this for a long time. MyBlogLog was one of the first that I used, and is no more. BlogCatalog is supposed to show recent visitors, but hasn't updated over the past four months, so I'll probably take down their widget. TwitterRemote provides similar functionality, as well as the ability for people to tweet when they visit the site and BlogFrog is still providing information about recent visitors.
Like Google Friend Connect, there is also the NetworkedBlogs widget which shows people who have followed the blog, mostly through Facebook, and there is another widget showing who has interacted with the blog via Facebook.
All of these are tools to help make the real experiences online more meaningful and I hope that if you visit my blog, you'll somehow let me know. Join the blog with Google Friend Connect. Follow the blog on NetworkedBlogs. Login with TwitterRemote. Or simply leave a comment.
Help me know that my readers are real.