The growth of hyper-connectivity

This transformation seems to me to be the one people, generally, recognize immediately. The widespread of mobile technologies is evident, and people take advantage of such in so many different forms.

People have the possibility to accept, develop and maintain an increasing number of connections any time, any place (in fact, to what extent do new technologies allow us to manage this increasing number of connections?). These connections extend decisively traditional physical boundaries – the emergence of thriving online communities is an example. But how do people present themselves in these distinct places (virtual, real, mixed)? How do people manage these new complexities? How do the new artifacts influence social conventions regarding communication? Do we see the emergence of new communication asymmetries? How can the different communication systems safeguard rights when these asymmetries emerge?

Research on privacy policies is an actual and important topic and its connection with ethics is obvious.

Our own work regarding the design of digital public displays (the Instant Places project) is clearly within the range of issues being referred to here. In fact, at Ubicomp@UMinho we have investigating how people manage self presentation when a public display allows them to interact with the content. The Instant Places project has also allowed us to address the issue of crowd computing. More specifically, one of the topics under consideration relates to the emergence of groups in particular places and how this process is affected by the presence of the interactive display. Considering the problem of who controls the display content we need to investigate mechanisms that allow consensus without falling into the trap of exclusion/bullying. See: http://ubicomp.algoritmi.uminho.pt/wesp/

At a societal level, the internet and mobile technologies, separately or together, allow us to be involved in a variety of events and are changing the way we participate in public/political phenomena. The messages themselves might have a distinct character since online/virtual and real world living might be viewed through very distinct lenses – for example, are we ready to commit ourselves to real world activism the same way as we post our views concerning political issues on the web? For sure traditional Institutions are now aware of this transformation and are trying to cope with it.

In terms of values, for the moment I see the safeguard of rights in asymmetric communications and privacy the two main issues… but of course I am very willing to be convinced otherwise 🙂

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