Saturday, May 19, 2007

I Doubt This Will Surprise Those Who Know Me...

...But it appears that I am an "Information Technology Omnivore," according to an on-line tech-use survey from the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

The survey is part of a Pew study, A Typology of Information and Communication Technology Users, which attempts to describe the many different ways that we use our suite of information technology tools. According to the Pew study, "85% of American adults use the Internet or cell phones – and most use both." On the other hand, about half of Americans "have a more distant or non-existent relationship to modern information technology."

In other words, many have the tools and many use them, but only a small percentage are really comfortable in an on-line world.

It looks like I am one of this group, about 8% of the American public. The Omnivorous Tech Users are described as embracing the connectivity provided by technology to enhance their work lives and personal lives:
Members of this group use their extensive suite of technology tools to do an enormous range of things online, on the go, and with their cell phones. Omnivores are highly engaged with video online and digital content. Between blogging, maintaining their Web pages, remixing digital content, or posting their creations to their websites, they are creative participants in cyberspace.
I don't exhibit all of the characteristics of this group. I don't create video content very much and I don't IM or text message beyond what is required to keep tabs on a teen-age child. And I am well outside one of the key demographic characteristics: "The median age is 28; just more than half of them are under age 30."

I do feel old some days.

Ironically, two co-workers and I explored this same territory in a slightly different way yesterday. We had all heard keynote speaker Don Cooke talking about Second Life at the recent Delaware GIS Conference. That led to a discussion of on-line communities and some of the skills needed to maintain and grow them. I've been thinking about this a fair amount lately, in relation to my work with Delaware's GIS Community, and the National GIS Coordinators group (NSGIC) both of which are partly on-line.

Dave wondered aloud which world, the physical or the on-line, was, in fact, reality. We briefly considered the theory proposed in the film The Matrix (the first one), that what we perceive as reality is in fact a simulated, virtual reality dream world constructed and maintained to keep the entire human population in a state of subjugated sleep.

We skipped the obvious contemporary political implications of this thought and turned briefly to Plato's allegory of the cave in which what humans perceive as reality is in fact only the shadows of a puppet show cast on the wall of a cave in which they are prisoners (/oversimplification of complex philosophical thought).

At that point we realized that once you've pursued a thought back to Plato's cave, it's probably time to move on to something else.

As I write this blog entry, it occurs to me that one could rewrite Plato's allegory in modern terms with the Internet as the cave and blogs and web 2.0 things creating the shadows.

But there is a sunny Saturday morning outside and the grass needs to be cut. The library needs to be walked to. The state park is hosting a kayak expo.

I may be an Information Technology Omnivore, but I know when it is time to shut down the laptop and head outside.

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