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Posted by on May 3, 2011

Connectedness, mobility, and weaving the physical onto the virtual (geneaology)

I wrote the following in response to a #MobiMOOC question presented by John Traxler on how mobility and connectedness impacts culture, communities, and countries. I posted this answer, but wanted to bring it here as well. Overall, I will say that mobility will redefine communities at alarmingly rapid rates, redraw boundaries, and put signficant pressure on macro constructs (state, country, large group), anything that does not redefine itself according to need. Without being hinged to individual or communal need (as mobile technology does well), the construct becomes a temporary obstacle. This is how workarounds appear and become process. Enough of that. The actual post is below. 

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The image above is taken from my wife’s family in Daegu, Korea, in the mid to late 1940s. Through social media, I have managed to network several members of her family who could verify other people in this photograph and we have begun identifying people there. Much of this information was lost as the Korean War was to strike a few years later. Through a perpetual and unlimited sense of connectedness, we are able to piece together family histories through mutual discovery. To see the work in progress, go to the Flickr page

So the question is how mobility and connectedness impact different cultures and communities and countries. I suppose I will relate my own personal experience with this and see if anyone else has a similar experience. 

I am a bit of a nomad in terms of geography. I have lived outside my own country for quite some time and will be heading out again soon for another 4-5 years.For the last five years I have worked in Princeton, New Jersey, but reported to people in Michigan and New York. I have conference calls with a colleague in Nairobi twice a week.I am moving to Seoul in August.  I work with very few people in my office, nobody on a day to day basis. All my communication with my organization is via email, telephone call, video conference, webinar, etc. I meet face to face with people (in my organization) about once a quarter. I have an office, but my work wouldn’t skip a beat if I worked from home (ie, anywhere). I don’t feel disconnected at all. During this time (and a bit before), I have studied online and completed two Masters (Drexel University (US) and University of Edinburgh (UK). 

My world is online. I am as connected through social media as is possible without actually tapping into my sleep schedule (and it sometimes does). Always on, always plugged in. John’s article really resonated with me in terms of the blurring of private and public space and the growing dislocation of time and place. I wrote about it a bit here: http://michaelgallagher.posterous.com/51610630

While I hesitate to call this the typical experience in the US, I think it applies here as I am not approaching mobile as a bridge between the physical world (day to day life) and the virtual, but rather as a bridge from the online to the physical. Mobile redefines my relationship with my online network (the one that I most work with and draw most from professionally and personally) rather than redefines my relationship with my physical network. It augments my ability to transmit and receive at ease and at leisure. It sharpens my ability to define my context out in the world and reflect on how that experience imprints on me. I sit at a park in New York and can read all that has been written about that park, converse with people who have experienced that park, watched the sunset, captured it and posted it to my network. And more importantly, I can receive feedback on all of this in real-time cementing experience with some communal wisdom. Mobile is an absolute game-changer for me and my networks. 

I think from a learning perspective what it does most is limits the disconnect from experiencing, learning, and reflecting. Allows me to do all three either simultaneously or in immediate succession. I experience something (sunset at a cafe in Paris), capture it (video, audio, image), reflect on it (blog, Twitter, etc.) and receive feedback on it (Facebook, Twitter, comments). That learning loop is fairly compact, taught even. Mobile has redefined my community this way. 

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Constructing a collaborative geneaology of the 서 (Seo) Family with people I have never met. 

 

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