Innovate and Disrupt – With a Slant On Sociology

February 26, 2009

Will no inhibition virtual world impact/influence us in the physical world?

Filed under: anti-social, Network, sociology, virtual world — vsistla @ 5:27 am

When you go to a networking event or get together and you run into someone you know and they snub you for NO apparent reason – what would you do? Would you confront them right then and there to make peace or would you 2-parrots-dont-talk-mad-look-away3keep it to yourself even if it bothered you or reason out that there might be a valid justification for that person’s behavior and move on? Most of us end up choosing the later – keep that to ourselves and move on even if it bothered us to some extent.

Recently someone removed themselves from my Linkedin contact list. I realized that when I wanted to drop a note to say hi and see what that person is up to. Removing someone from your network – after accepting them once – on Linkedin or Facebook is as good as snubbing someone at a party or get two-monkeys-ignoringtogether in our real world. Should we follow a similar physical world protocol and move on or should we try to find out and then decide – either to make peace or move on?

While our response to such situations might vary based on the circumstances – ex girlfriend, disgruntled subordinate, rude neighbor, etc – we tend to be lot more audacious in the virtual world.

Last fifteen years in the virtual world showed that people show less inhibition than in the real life. For example, more people blog or write on the web than actually go to a podium and deliver a speech about the same topic. More people upload their silly videos than act silly on a stage or in public.

Virtual world is also lot less intrusive than the physical world. For example we can accept complete strangers as our friends or contacts in the online world where as complete opposite in the real world. One of the main reasons why Burger King’s campaign for a free whopper for every 10 deleted friends on Facebook took off so quickly (until Facebook pulled that out) is because of this laissez faire mentality in the virtual world.

Now the question is – will these habits or behavior in the virtual world influence our physical world? If so, in what way and how? Can we drop our inhibitions and be more audacious in the real world?

On the flip side …..

Over time will we start to emulate our real world behavior in the virtual world? Will the virtual world start to become as intrusive as the physical world in the future?

Thoughts on Ideation

What if social networking sites – LinkedIn, Facebook, and MySpace provide more options for people to communicate their emotions and true intentions?For example, I don’t want to connect/be friends with you anymore because we don’t have anything in common or you spam too much or don’t like your content or links, you are marrying my ex love, etc, etc.

It would be a good research area to investigate if the virtual mores are influencing our real life interactions and if so in a positive or negative way.


December 8, 2008

Virtually Super-Social but Physically/in real life Anti-Social ….Side Serving of Technology

A month ago I was visiting Korea and Taiwan on business with some of my colleagues. I was sitting in a cab with my colleague Adam Powers heading to our hotel. It was a 45 min ride back to the hotel. As soon as we got back into the cab, we pulled out our Blackberries to check our emails followed by our voice mails. Then we both joked about the fact that we are so hooked onto our “email” clients and went back to our Blackberries. I checked by Facebook account to update my status to make sure all my virtual friends and contacts know where I am, responded to few of my MySpace buddies and posted few comments to Twitter. Congratulated a contact in Italy on his first born, posted a comment to one other friend regarding his obsession with Heather Lockear and scanned recently uploaded photos on my Flickr account. Before we knew we were at the hotel. 45 mins went by without me knowing anything more about Adam or his interests or his latest projects or his weekend plans. We conversed for less than a minute in those 45 minutes. In the “pre-Blackberry” era we would have talked up a storm.


Have we become “anti-social” in our physical life where as “super social” over electronic communication?


What are the sociological implications of a society that is tethered to be electronically social but not so plugged in with the surroundings?

What are the physiological implications – especially our eyes, ears and other sense organs with gadgets plugged into our ears and glued to our eyes?

We are so oblivious to our surroundings – in public places – trains, buses, etc – we have become completely irrelevant to the person sitting next to us. Days are gone when you can eves drop on the conversationsĀ  to either quench your gossip curiosity or use that to build a new friendship or join in the conversation or help them with something – because you are so busy listening into your iPod and playing solitaire on your iPhone.

Seeds for Ideation …..

The way I see, there are few questions that are yet to be answered – in turn lead us to some innovation.

1. Physiological implications of getting plugged in electronically – on our sense organs.What can be done to mitigate them in the long run?

2. Sociological implications of being anti-social in the physical world.

If we put aside physiological implications, I feel the sociological angle could be tackle much easily with the help of same technology that brought us to this juncture.

Innovate on head phones that let you capture noise from the surroundings, filter/distill the relevant information into your ear drums. This could be a feature that you could set on or off. For example, you could customize the headphones to capture words such as your name, bomb, or your mother tongue and so forth.

Come up with applications that run on your mobile phone that tell you if any0ne in your address book is also on the same train in the same compartment using LBS/GPS/Bluetooth technologies.

The goal should be to use the same technology to fulfill use cases in public spaces that were prevalent in the pre-cell phone/blackberry era.

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