Lifecasting your lifestream?

The following is a summary of a recent BBC article regarding the hyper-connectivity of mobile devices and their relationship to a new generation of Internet content. It makes a few interesting assumptions regarding social changes in light of advances in mobile connectivity. As has already been discussed here, the ubiquity of social networking sites, blogs, file-sharing, and mobile phones, has led to a somewhat predictable outcome: an ever-intensifying desire among many users to know - and, more importantly, to announce - every minute detail of their own and others' lives. This has apparently spawned the term "lifecasting", which, I suppose, is quite appropriate, but suggests a rather warped definition of 'life'.

The new services allow users to produce web-based content from their mobile phones 'on the go' which can then be distributed via existing social networks to virtually anyone, in real time or in archive form. It is important to reiterate, however, that the sites are very likely to be (co-)dependent upon several existing services as much as they might stand on their own. For example, while Twitter is somewhat conceptually self-sufficient, it depends on mobile phone users with mobile phone contracts and services. Furthermore, one's network of Twitterers (?) is likely to overlap with MySpace contacts, Facebook friends, etc. Thus, the interest in these sites at all (with the acceptance that any one can be a fleeting fad) is their interconnectivity.

Speaking of connectivity, then, the article suggests two things: that hyper-connectivity - the facility and ability to be 'connected' all the time, and, presumably, actually making use of this connection - will be a pre-requisite for life in the near future. Secondly, this hyper-connectivity has given rise to two behavioral changes: hyper-honesty and egotism. In short, a hyper-connected individual has no qualms about publicly sharing the most intimate, minute-by-minute details of their lives, when, and only when, they choose to do so. They will likewise only contribute or respond to others' information when it is suitable to their schedules or desires, without any expectations otherwise.

If this is true, it suggests that there is a behavioral trend towards individualization of one's expectations as a social being, which, of course, questions the concept of sociality as a whole. As I am fond of pointing out, this is not such a unique phenomenon since the arrival of the mass consumer Internet in the 1990s. Take emails, for instance. It is very easy to receive an email and neglect to reply to its sender due to the nature of its content (emails can be short and fleeting) or the nature of its form (even longer, detailed emails can be lost in the inbox, never to receive a reply). Gone are the days when every carefully crafted 'letter' was returned with at least an acknowledgement. Conventions of writing and typical courtesies of response are no longer upheld because 'it takes too long'. Presumably, this was also found to be the case when long, hand-written letters were phased out by short, regular telephone calls.

Finally, hyper-'honesty' seems like the wrong word to use, as that implies an assessment of truth. Instead, it can be said that ubiquituous connectivity can make people more 'open' or willing to share personal information. Does any of this actually make people (we're talking about human beings, remember?) more honest or egotistical than usual? Or are they (we) just becoming more readily exposed?

Hyper-connected generation rises
Internet services such as
Twitter, Jaiku and Kyte TV are giving rise to a "hyper-connected" generation. An increasing number of applications has been launched that take advantage of "always on" connections, either over the net or on mobile devices. Users are not just sending texts and e-mails, but are "lifecasting" words and video 24 hours a day.

"It's a lifestream of your activities - both in the real world and online," said Jaiku's Jyri Engestrom. "We are seeing the logical continuation of a trend, with services like MySpace, Bebo and Facebook, " he added. Unlike e-mail or a basic SMS message, hyper-connected services are not just one-to-one; messages are "one-to-many", broadcasting via the web, on multiple sites, and on mobile devices as a form of mini-blog. Minute-by-minute accounts of your life and even live video can be posted inside social networks such as MySpace and Bebo, or experienced via a mobile phone.

"In five years time being hyper connected will become a necessity to be an active participant in the social world" ... Jyri Engestrom, Jaiku. "It's an ambient, not a disruptive service," explained Mr Engestrom. "You can follow the lives of your friends when and how you want - either via your phone, your Jaikiu page or via their blogs and websites."
"The webcam era was limited to people sitting at computers or in their room. By having wi-fi and 3G connections, people can broadcast anywhere to anyone."
Mr Engestrom said the hyper-connected had given rise to the hyper-honest. "This new generation is much more comfortable with openness and honesty. The young generation are happy to share their lives publicly. He added: "Being-hyper connected will become a precondition for citizenship. "In the same way mobiles are a necessity, in five years time being hyper-connected will become a necessity to be an active participant in the social world."

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