Wes Fryer made a good point about online communication being supplementary to f2f communication in his recent post “Complexities of open content“:
I do think I am personally experiencing a sort of “bridging” between the “second economy” that Lessig writes about (of WikiPedia, Second Life, and much of the edublogosphere) and the real economy of face-to-face existence. I think many of the intellectual investments I’ve made in the past via this blog, my podcast, and other articles I’ve written related to teaching and learning have had real-world payoffs in terms of connections I’ve made and invitations I’ve received to share and present with others. These evolving interactions are very dynamic but also exciting. I don’t want to be overly naive about the possibilities for “open content,” but at the same time I don’t want to play a limiting role in the possibilities for the resources and collaborative content which the world’s learners seem bound to create together in the years to come.
In fact, I would take his comments one step further and say that he is talking about online communication as a way to get to know people online first, and in person as a result of online communication. I’m sure there are many contacts that he’s made that have led to sincere collaborations down the line.
So…. here’s another example that shows that the boundaries between the online and physical world aren’t that clear-cut as some of the examples from the CNN article in my previous post on this topic may want us to believe. I’ve come up with a (somewhat incomplete I’m sure) continuum of connections between people in the physical and online worlds. Obviously there is room to move from one part of the continuum to the next.
Physical world connection only: f2f
Physical world connection first, followed by online later on (e.g. somebody you got to know in person first, then you were forced to move online due to physical distance)
Physical and online connections simultaneously (people you know in your surroundings, and who you communicate with both f2f and online)
Online world connection first, personal connection later on (what Wes talked about in his post)
Online world connection only, but more deeply. I think the blogosphere is a great example of this. Jeff Utecht wrote about that recently in “1 year and counting“, when he mentioned that “This blog led to amazing conversations in San Diego at NECC. Where I felt comfortable walking up to David Warlick, David Jakes, Will Richardson Tim Lauer, Tim Wilson and others and introducing myself. The weird part was, although we’d never met they knew who I was.”
Online world connection only: e.g. your list of “friends” at MySpace. You really don’t know them, other than what you’ve seen online in a superficial sort of way.
How you use aspects of one realm in the other, or how you move from one part of the continuum to the other is really up to the user … and again, this is were education can play a key role in teaching kids what’s safe, ethical, appropriate … but only if educators come to a more full understanding of the power and pitfalls of the Internet…
Image Credit: Roland: