I should start this post by wishing everyone a wonderful New Years Eve and Day. I hope it is fulfilling, safe, and enjoyable and I wish you all nothing but the best for 2010. 2009 has been a trying year so I am quite confident that 2010 will be one of the better years of my life. It just seems to work that way.

That being said, I find that certain technologies have gripped my imagination and some haven’t. Some have rolled around and even though they have been replaced by the next shiny new thing, I still am loyal to them. Take Skype for instance. I was using that for years back in Korea and it still absolutely marvels me. I think it might be one of the most utilitarian tools to have come out of the last ten years. I absolutely adore it. I still use it religiously.

Webcams are another bit of technology that just engulfed my imagination. Not the dirty webcams, the city webcams. And yes, they are passé, but I love them. So there.

I remember sitting in my apartment in Seodaemun, Seoul, with Jen visiting her father in Long Island. I was spending Christmas and New Years alone (that isn’t as bad as it sounds-it appealed to me at the time). I spent many of them alone as Jen would often travel home at that time of year. I would meet some friends for some drinks and come back and spend hours looking at all the webcams of all the cities in the world.

These webcams absolutely comforted me. I was amazed to be able control some of the webcams and see places I was familiar with. I felt so incredibly connected as I sat in my apartment at Christmas. I would roam around Pittsburgh, see the snow fall on St. Catherine’s Street in Montreal, watch the sunrise over Table Mountain in Cape Town, see the cars buzz around Red Square in Moscow. Brilliant.

If you have a certain Romantic disposition and are inclined to poetic fits of melancholy (the good kind, like Yeats or Auden), it is almost a perfect scenario. It is almost exactly why many of us ventured overseas in the first place (in my case as a 22 year old with $150 in my pocket and vague directions to some small town up by the DMZ in Korea). To push through this vague notion that life can be better, a little more spectacular, a little more profound. It was, and still is, a lonely impulse of delight.

For all the talk about how technology is driving us farther apart, is severing the most intimate connections, these technologies make me feel closer than I could ever hope to physically. I can see the world and the world can see me. Otherwise, I would have no business interacting with any of these people. But I do and am enriched for the experience. I see this interconnectedness here more than in most technologies. It is more fleeting, more voyeuristic, but more profound for me.

So I decided to pass along some of my greatest hits, the ones I found most appealing. Unfortunately, webcams are fairly ephemeral; they come and go at great regularity. I imagine this trend will become more pronounced as they are not as fashionable as they once were (if they ever were). Regardless, as New Years approaches in New York City, the Times Square one can be a hoot.

1. Times Square– many different angles, a lot of drunk revelry. For those in Korea, this is a good one to watch at night as there are a lot of stumbling and bumbling people early in the morning. It is snowing there (and here) as I write this.
2. Tokyo-nothing much happening in this one, but it soothes me for some reason. Also, I have a friend who lives somewhere in this mass of buildings.
3. Moscow-I feel very Jason Bourne when looking at this one for some reason.
4. Montreal-not the same one I remember and an odd choice of streets to be focusing on, but still fun.
5. Dublin-my favorite city in all the world (Seoul, don’t get jealous as I think of you as not being from this world). A truly magical place, that Dublin is.
6. Cape Town-wonderful views of a beautiful place.

I would love to see some Korea ones, but they have always been difficult to find (in English). If you are so inclined, use the World Map to find some closer to you.

Happy New Year everyone.

By Michael Gallagher

My name is Michael Sean Gallagher. I am a Lecturer in Digital Education at the Centre for Research in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh. I am Co-Founder and Director of Panoply Digital, a consultancy dedicated to ICT and mobile for development (M4D); we have worked with USAID, GSMA, UN Habitat, Cambridge University and more on education and development projects. I was a researcher on the Near Futures Teaching project, a project that explores how teaching at The University of Edinburgh unfold over the coming decades, as technology, social trends, patterns of mobility, new methods and new media continue to shift what it means to be at university. Previously, I was the Research Associate on the NERC, ESRC, and AHRC Global Challenges Research Fund sponsored GCRF Research for Emergency Aftershock Forecasting (REAR) project. I was an Assistant Professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (한국외국어대학교) in Seoul, Korea. I have also completed a doctorate at University College London (formerly the independent Institute of Education, University of London) on mobile learning in the humanities in Korea.

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