Online Communication: How Do You Keep It Real in a Virtual Space?
I have found communicating online both illuminating and limiting.
My activity here has drastically increased the web presence of my company and opened doors to new personal career possibilities as well as educating me and connecting me with some of the best friends I've ever had.
But I have also experienced a darker side to the internet which included miscommunication, disingenuousness and even mild cyber-stalking. I talked a little about these treachorous waters of unexplored human interaction in a post a few months ago.
As I launch my new business project, Eventprov Interactive Conference Experiences bringing present-oriented improv concepts and games to meetings & events, I'm finding myself needing and wanting to incorporate remote attendees into these activities. Apparently, I'm not the only improvisor who is seeking ways to do this.
At the recent Applied Improvisation Network World Conference in Baltimore, an open-space session on Applied Improv on a Virtual Platform, was quite well attended. The session was really a think-tank and we came up with some interesting ideas for overcoming obstacles that are unique to playing virtually. Some of the obstacles included:
* Bad audio during conference calls or video chats
* Chat only interface
* Lack of video to see facial expressions
* Blending several platforms ei, skype, Twitter and face to face
Though we came up with several ideas, we will all be experimenting. So much of this has been done only rarely if ever. A fact brought home by a recent article in MPI's One+ magazine entitled "The Truth of Tech."
In it, author Quinn Norton points out that "society is in a kind of communicative puberty, finding our ways of relating to each other changing, new ones forming and often in ways in which we're not comfortable."
While online communication gives people a sense of anonymity that seems to free them to say and do things they wouldn't ordinarily do, that "removed" feeling can also get in the way of understanding.
When communication cues are missing, we often rush to fill in the blanks about people by doing searches online. But we do this with a sense of wariness and feel a little uncomfortable about such incursions into our own privacy.
Communication has changed so much because of the internet and cell phones, that we are no longer comfortable with not having a quick and easy way to reach friends and loved ones at any given moment. As Norton notes, "How can I learn to miss you if you never really go away?" Which emphasizes the fact that we are all living parallel virtual lives now, whether we like it or not.
The thing I've loved about my online life is the ability to connect with so many people. The thing I don't love is having to wonder if those connections are based in reality, or just assumptions I've made. As I make my way down the path of virtual/in person connecting, my goal is to make every connection, no matter how limited, as real as it can be.
So how do YOU keep it real online and virtually? What are your thoughts and experiences? Maybe we can help each other get there together.
(Photo by Kris Harmison)
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