I just finished giving a talk at Sosial og Digital. It is 10AM in Norway and 3AM in Chicago. I spent the last hour talking into the ether about Friendster with virtually no visual and absolutely no audio feedback. It was a very very very peculiar thing. Here’s a segment of my pre-amble for everyone’s amusement:
There’s something very odd about this situation. It’s 2AM in Chicago. I’m sitting in a musty hotel room by myself, talking into a camera that is being projected into a different time zone. It is dark outside and even with all the lights turned on, it is still dim here. The ethernet cable is screwed into the table so that i won’t steal it. As a result, i’m sitting at a wooden desk which faces a very large mirror.
If i look above the camera, i’m staring at myself in the mirror. If i look below the camera, i’m staring at the captured version of myself on the iSight. No matter where i look, i’m staring at myself talking into the ether. I’m trying very hard to resist the temptation to make faces at myself because growing up, that’s what my brother and i did whenever we saw ourselves on surveillance cameras and in mirrors.
I cannot really see you. I have no idea about the temperature of your room, the smell of the morning coffee, the sense of shared presence that you’re currently relishing, the looks on your face as i speak too fast. I understand that if i look down at my notes, my eyes move away from you and this must be very disconcerting since i assume that my face is ridiculously large in front of you. In order to get feedback from you, i have to wait for information from iChat, which results in me appearing to turn away just as you talk to me. It is a very peculiar situation that we’re engaged in.
Of course, as a blogger, one might assume that this is a comfortable position. After all, i write long treatises and throw them into the wind, never aware of the reactions of my readers, never even aware of who my readers are. [interlude about Walter Ong and embodiment]
The difference has to do with my conception of my audience conception. For me, the plausible deniability invoked in blogging is strong. I can convince myself that i write for me and me alone ::wink:: and convince myself to be shocked when i receive feedback. I can check my stats, but those are just numbers – nameless, faceless people. Yet, here i am, speaking to nameless, faceless people, only i’m required by this situation to convince myself that you do really exist, even if i cannot see you. In this situation, i have the expectation that i am a face to you and you’re just an assumption to me. It really brings life to the idea that i’m just a talking head.
Of course, the first question i got was to prove that i’m not just a Fakester talking to them from next door. I love it!