Famous Last Words: Hello, Avatars!
In one of his great short essay books, "Republic of Technology," former Librarian of Congress Daniel J. Boorstin (1975-1987) described how Americans were getting more and more isolated from each other:
• In frontier days, people did everything together: gathered to hear the news from a town crier, congregated in the kitchen in the winter—because that was where the heat was—and spent time in the outhouse with its two-to-four "holer." Central heating, air conditioning and indoor plumbing changed those scenarios.
• Newspapers have replaced the town crier.
• During World War II, we gathered around the radio to hear Edward R. Murrow from London.
• Black-and-white television replaced radio as the gathering place for the family.
• When color television came along, the old black-and-white sets were relegated to the kids' rooms where they could be alone watching what they wanted.
• Now we sit all day in front of a computer and send emails to the person in the next office or down the hall.
Ultimate Disembodiments: Skype, Webinars and Virtual Shows
With the economy in the tank and businesses scrambling for revenue and profits, travel and entertainment (T&E) budgets are seriously cut.
Peggy Hatch, who replaced me as honcho of this publication (and is doing a far better job than I ever did), has launched webinars (seminars on the Web) and virtual shows (seminar sessions plus an online exhibit hall with booths where vendors can show off their wares digitally) for publications in the Target Marketing Group.
To my way of thinking, this is a huge improvement over boring old print, offering far more action and interaction between viewers and presenters.
For meetings, there are Skype and "Go To Meeting"—group phone calls where everybody is electronic—avatars talking to avatars. Unfortunately, this means no more personal banter with ideas crackling followed by a convivial lunch or dinner afterwards.