Is being “connected” becoming a “sense”?

July 13, 2008

With all the possibilities of communication, location based services plus the growing penetration and low costs of anything mobile the notion of being connected will result in a paradigm shift. It is the food we need to develop, to grow and to create. It is a new sense. And not just in Europe…

JP Rangaswami on his blog Confused of Calcutta gave me the title for this post and has good thoughts on this:

You see, I think connectivity, particularly ubiquitous always-on mobile connectivity, can make a real difference in terms of health, education and welfare, and that it can make a difference today. The days of “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers” and “there is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home” are long gone. Today the BRICS have bricks in their hands, the bricks are getting smaller and they’re always on.

Too often, when people try and make this point, the objections are common and predictable. “You don’t get it, these people need food first. They’re starving.”. And so the debate about connectivity gets waylaid. Ironically, this is often done by people who then pump up the volume about the importance of biofuels in solving the energy crisis…. the same biofuels that then drive grain prices up and make staple food harder to afford for many people…..but that’s another debate.

All I was thinking was this. Is connectivity becoming like sight and hearing and speech and mobility? And if so what does that mean for the endless debates we appear to be having about what the internet and the web are?


6 Responses to “Is being “connected” becoming a “sense”?”

  1. When you talk about “always being connected”, then my question is “connected to what”? In my opinion “being connected” only could become a “sense” when you are connected to something that makes sense to you, otherwise it has no relevance to you in your daily life. I actually do not fully understand how it could become a “sense” (in the true meaning of the word) at all.

    Mobile technologies certainly play a pivotal role in helping people to connect to other people, information and content that matters to them whenever they feel like it, or wherever they need it. Still, I would argue, we are some ways off in reaching mass-market affordable ubiquitous mobile (broadband) coverage, which, in my opinion, is needed to fulfill your vision. Sometimes we get blinded by our own behaviour, portraying that as something that will be mass-market behaviour soon. You and I already have access to Twitter and wherever we are and on multiple devices with different screen sizes and input methods, but does the general public care, or do they just perceive us as a bunch of weirdos that have nothing better to do?

    I think the more interesting discussion is what people in general would do with the ubiquitous connectivity and location information. I think it might be difficult to give a generic answer, so there is work to be done (luckily, otherwise we could all just go fishing….).

    Taking all this into consideration I feel that “being connected becoming a sense” is somehow the wrong interpretation of what is happening. Certainly, being connected can augment your senses, it can help you to watch, hear and find things in a new way. But still I find it difficult to see it as a sixth sense that would be equal to our current five senses, as it does not provide the same level of sensation? Maybe you need to elaborate a bit more on how you come to your statement.

    If what you are describing comes to fruition are we not then talking about a basic need (as you compare it to food) instead of a sense? The basic need of connecting people to what is relevant to them and what gives them value in their day to day real-life activities?

  2. Lens-FitzGerald Says:

    @Loek van der Helm
    I agree that sense is a big word for some thing that is not there for everybody yet. But it is for some. Think about the village phone in India to check crop prices. It is a start.

    I see two sides.
    1: the economical developmental aspect. As in the village phone. Is a pump or a phone better to develop a community? Connectivity as a force of development. People not just need water. This is what JP says in his quote.

    2: the sensing aspect. Think Jyri’s nodal points ( I have a video of the presention on that subject he did in Amsterdam and will get around to publish it at some point…8-). Always online helps you interpret your local context, not just the social and communicative aspect, also your physical state and environment (think temperature, heart rate monitoring and more)

    Key for both is the interpretation by the individual. How he or she sees and uses it. How they sense their environment with it. Its is not the technology that make it a sense it is the use and the acceptance by the individual that will make it happen. And that, that will be a leap.

    Hmmm I also see some links to Rhymo’s latest post and this, what do you think?

  3. Patrick Says:

    I like to compare (although not 1:1 map) connectivity / web 2.0 with the Maslov pyramid (ref-needed), to which you somewhat refer.

    It fulfills a need on a ‘higher’ level than e.g. physical needs (level 1). It most likely fulfills social contacts (level 2), although i ‘m still strugling how level 2 (security) fits in this analogy.

  4. Patrick Says:

    I mean ‘…fulfills social contacts (level 3)…’

  5. I fully underwrite the visions in the additional material you pointed to, and it underlines my point about the need for being connected to local and global information that is relevant to the user, but I guess my main comment was regarding the distinction between sense, need and interpretation. The village phone example you put forward illustrates that quite nicely.

    I still believe that this turns the always connected device more into a a basic need, augmenting the human senses, than into a sense itself, as the human senses (mainly vision, hearing and touch) are still the main tools for us to interpret the information we get through the device. Sense is very closely linked to the way in which the human mind perceives the external world or the state of the body.

    Perhaps we are ending up into a philosophical discussion on what “sense” is, and I guess even the English language is ambiguous in this respects using “sense” for both human senses, as well as measuring or even reason.

    Is the device that acts as a conduit for local and global information and content that is locally relevant to us in our context an additional sense, or is it just a sensor?

  6. Nearly half of the youth segment would rather go hungry than be without Internet or mobile phone (article in Dutch):,2

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