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Eran's blog

The Mobile Phone as a Virtual Campfire

In the old days, we huddled around a campfire for warmth and safety. We formed tribes and villages and lives in the cradle of an extended family. But we lost a lot of that when we moved to big cities. The local pub used to be a place to meet your friends and neighbors, now it is filled with strangers. We spend our evenings staring at the television, a poor replacement for a campfire. TV doesn’t connect you to anyone but it distracts you enough so you don’t have to think about it. In Fahrenheit 451, television gives people the illusion of a family so they can pretend to be part of a tribe, it’s amazing how true Bradbury‘s vision is 50 years later.

Strangely enough computers are changing this pattern. Thanks to modems and networks and telecommunications computers can connect to each other and through them so can we. Online communities started appearing in the very early days of the Internet (news groups, MUDs, etc.) and now with Social Networks more explicitly filling that role we can see virtual tribes forming everywhere. The network allows us to connect and capture some of those lost feelings of community and security. Is it really any wonder that we can’t get enough of those sites?

Now comes the latest wave; mobile social applications let us carry that connection and that sense of community with us everywhere. Dodgeball, twitter or jaiku keep us always connected, always aware of a community of friends around us. My phone has become a hub of social life, like a campfire it is surrounded with my friends and tribe mates. Every once in a while it bleeps with another sign of life from my tribe. Another connection, no matter how minimal. Another reminder that I’m not alone.

(Inspired in part by Trip Hawkins)

Filed under: The Net