The different types of synchronous and asynchronous communication are already apparent to most people. You have voice, like phone and face-to-face, and this is synchronous communication. And you have text messaging and email, which are asynchronous.

Asynchronous context (as opposed to communication) first became apparent to me when social news sites like Digg and Reddit came out. I started offering tidbits of info from these sites, and they served as minor social capital, like all news does. But they lost their value as social capital because all of my friends started to read the same sites. RSS aggregators increased the probability that we would have all read the same stories. So it became useless to bring up info from these sites because it was too commonly met with, “Oh yeah. I read that story.” And there are more personal forms of asynchronous context building, like when you read someone’s blog or bookmarks.

In the past, before digital communication gave the impression of instantaneous communication, we still had asynchronous communication through books and letter writing. Synchronous context would have been things like regional dress and vocabulary. But where was the asynchronous context? For a moment, I was tempted to think that asynchronous context didn’t exist. But it does in social structures. For instance, a fraternity, or a teacher who teaches the same books year after year. And also in stories that others tell about you.

What the web adds is an impersonal nature to context. A stranger can experience my context. Normally this was reserved for celebrities, where an obvious return was made on distributing a person’s context. Now, obtaining a person’s context is much easier and less costly.

Sciencefictionally-Speaking

August 27, 2007

I’ve invented another word, Sciencefictionally.

I was at a Design Party this last Friday. We working on designing various systems, some of them very general (social) and some specific (software). During the course of the event I observed that the progress we made depended on the level of acceptance we could maintain. Improv comedy shares the same principle, where the quality of the comedy depends on all of the actors accepting the other actors lines such that a seamless behavior can occur. This allows for the observation of larger themes to emerge and for unexpected events to occur.

Sciencefictionally-speaking was my way of inducing the group to accept my comments unconditionally (at least temporarily). For example I would say something like this, “Sciencefictionally the document would be multi-dimensional, having a z-axis as well as x and y.” This prevents people from rushing to ask what this would mean for the interface or what the appropriate data structure would be. And not only does the word protect the idea from knee-jerk analysis, but also from the progenitor’s tendency for self-censorship.

Like improv comedy, this type of group-design-creativity takes a lot of practice. However, it doesn’t hurt to have a word to drive the theme of acceptance.

PS: I’m still debating on whether it should be spelled science-fictionally or sciencefictionally.

Anti-Catastrophes

August 23, 2007

Catastrophe is an interesting word, meaning to turn up and down or to overturn.

What is the antonym for a catastrophe? There really are no acceptable words in my view. There is miracle, but this is too religious. And there is wonder, but wonder is more a personal sense or act. This lack is so annoying to me, I’m going to make a satisfying antonym, goodtastrophe.

It seems to me that there have been many catastrophes as of late, and not enough goodtastrophes. The Apollo Moon landing is a great example of a goodtastrophe. It was also an event that overturned, but positively. This was particularly the case when Earth got a snapshot of itself from the point of view of the Moon. There need to be more goodtastrophes.

For example, on February 16th, 2009, the last eighty percent efficient solar array is put into place in the Mojave Desert, completing an expansive solar farm that powers the entirety of LA. In celebration of this goodtastrophe, the power company cuts all non-emergency power in the city for thirty seconds. At four in the afternoon, the lights go off, and when they come on again not a single watt of grid power comes from coal or oil.

In June 2010, the first child is cured of autism. July 2010, the emissionless flying car comes into production. October 2008, the opening of the first world-wide carbon-credit exchange. We need more goodtastrophes.