Up until only recently, I had never thought of Skype as being social media. Now that I think about it, that seems absurd. It is perhaps the most social of social media in that it allows for fluid and easy exchanges between individuals, perhaps with a less widely construed net than Twitter (shouting into the ether), Facebook (more like a frat party at times), or even Google+ (which reminds me of a conference, erudite, but a lot of chatter going on). Skype, it comicly dawned on me, is a social beast par example. One that maps the face to face human processes to a digital sphere and then makes it way back again to the physical. More like Google Maps or Earth that way as it has a geography, a landscape of situatedness. Skype activity, in my mind, takes place in space. But it does pose a few interesting wrinkles in how it does that.
Case in point (and these types of posts will be common until I actually get to see my wife again). My wife has moved to Seoul ahead of me to secure an apartment. I will ship everything and follow close behind in about three weeks, but not before visiting a good friend in Seattle. My wife and I confer as often as possible on Skype via her laptop and the iPad. I get to see our old neighborhoods, our new haunt, and her general acclimation to Korea after the last five years in Princeton. It prepares me for what is coming, visualizes a bit of the difficulties I might encounter, comforts me. I lived in Seoul for a long time before, but it changes quickly so I was excited to have the opportunity for a sneek peek into Korea ahead of time (through the trusted gaze of my wife). I acclimate a bit before even getting there.
I also have a chance to miss her a bit less. She left a week ago and our daily video chats on Skype are reassuring, occasionally pragmatic (wire me money), but mostly a chance to think of all the wonderful things I am heading towards. Wherever I find my wife, that is where home is. Skype just gives me preview of the home to come. Gives our reunion a mixed homecoming/departure narrative. Forever coming and going and mobile and all of that. If all of this isn’t a mobile learning scenario, I don’t what is.
I know Google Voice integrates all of this into Gmail and I was tempted to use it. But Skype has my loyalty (from the last time around in Korea), my wife, my family, and a nice soft blue/green interface (seriously, don’t underestimate aethetics or overemphasize making everything look the same-integration isn’t always the best route when one is conversing in real-time. Big, different looking buttons help people. And make them red, green, blue). It will have me a customer as it is my social, preferred window onto my new home. Often through the gaze of other loved ones.