The Shared Experience

< %image(20061217-Shared_TV.png|588|407|Shared Experience prototype: two people and TV feed.)%>

This is a picture of a three way iChat. My friend Preston Austin travels quite a bit with his business. Here we see Preston in the bottom display, cleaning bicycle parts in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. His wife is folding laundry in Madison, Wisconsin. A third computer has a TV tuner attached, providing a live feed from “Sex in the City.” Preston and his wife have watched movies “together” this way several times. He reports that the experience allowed for more rich interaction than just long video calls and certainly better than separately watching TV.

Preston has been emphasizing to me the value of the shared experience almost since the moment I met him. When he first told me about shared virtual movie theaters, I didn’t really get it. But now I see my kids gathered around the TV or the computer running a DVD, and talking to each other about what they’re seeing. Or they’re on the phone discussing the same TV show that they and their friends are separately and simultaneously watching.

I think the principle here is that every(*) experience can be enriched by sharing it. Regardless of where the solitary activity is in the range from passive to active, the activity becomes more active when shared. This has value for education, training, and entertainment.

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Too geeky even for Wetmachine

For all you progressive’s who remember the TV Show Babylon 5, I wrote this on my LJ.

Back in the mid-1990s, it amused me no end to see know-it-alls pound on [series creator] J. Michael Straczinsky for the ridiculous idea that the government could shift from democratic to essentially a military dictatorship in so short a time, simply by leveraging the fear of “alien influences” assaulting our “way of life.” “Ho ho ho,” they laughed. “That trick may work on others, but it couldn’t happen in a real democracy like the U.S. I mean, if the President started to intrude on people’s rights and civil liberties, started locking them up and holding them for years without pressing charges, or started spying on his own people, no one would sit still for it! He’d be out on his ear when everyone rose up in protest.”

Sadly, I think JMS may end up with the last laugh, although I doubt he will find saying “told ya so” much comfort.