Update: Some sentences rearranged to better express what I wanted to convey. Bold added.
Mizuko Ito, a Japanese researcher, studied teenagers in Japan a few years ago, and found that these kids – from the moment they wake up in the morning, until they drop off to sleep at night – are enaged in a continuous and mostly trival conversation with, on average, five other friends. They might be in the flat next door, or on the other side of Tokyo. Proximity doesn’t matter. What does matter is the constant connection. Ito named this phenomenon “co-presence”. It seemed a bit too science-fiction wacky-technophile Japanese, at the time.
I just rediscovered this in some little used backwater of my online tools after saving it there ages ago.
The bold highlighted part is the bit that struck me, not simply because it’s obviously what’s going on with social networks and why things like Twitter are so popular – I’ve always seen Twitter as a ‘presence‘ app, but primarily because it’s what I’ve craved and been for years living out to varying degrees in various places online.
It’s also what I see and experience as going on big time in Second Life. With a twist. There, the physical, geographic proximity of the residents [users of SL] in terms of where they live certainly doesn’t matter (aside from the obvious problems differing timezones bring). And certainly, the relationships bought about by connection is the thing that keeps them returning.
However when in SL the issue of proximity does matter in terms of virtual geography. The “co-presence” spoken of is felt and made stronger by being in the same close virtual proximity with others in-world.
It’s why gatherings for dance partys with music live streamed in by DJ’s thrive, companies hold meetings, educators take classes, live music events where artists play in some remote physical location with their music streamed straight into the virtual gathering are extremely popular, it’s why people build homes and have friends around, and why they go exploring together, and develop close personal relationships, and why people gather in groups around in-world, often simplistic, puzzle style games that they share in the same virtual proximity with others – where the being with others is part of the enjoyment of the game – in my opinion, often moreso than the game itself.
Yes, in the physical world, proximity may be becoming less important for connection to others.
In the virtual word, proximity is everything and co-presence is made almost palpable.