Little Moments: How technology connects us more, not less

Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, published a blog posting a while back that claimed that technology was making us more self-involved and narcissistic, that the end result of this self-centeredness would be a culture of sociopaths who are more attached to their devices and their gear than to people.

Poppycock. Balderdash. He’s completely wrong.

(That last sentence was included for those of you who don’t know what “poppycock” and “balderdash means. Kids these days…)

Technology that services our interests, and is personal and easy to use (such as the car that Adams cites in his article)? Well, that’s fantastic. It’s what my job as a User Experience Architect is: To make complicated technology approachable, usable and helpful. If, as a result of that, technology becomes desirable as well – so much the better. It certainly doesn’t make me a “sociopath creator”, which Scott Adams claims that technology is doing.

Technology, especially in the social networking space, allows us to engage communicate and connect with people we would have never met, old friends no longer physically close, and kindred spirits with like interests. Yes, there is an ego-centric aspect to a lot of technology (which I wrote about here) but it’s about sharing as much as self-promotion. “The cloud” has connected us all in ways unimagined before. It provides us with “little moments”, small touchpoints to people throughout the day. Moments that make our lives richer and happier.

The social networks and the “cloud” has broken down barriers and opened up opportunities that we would not have had otherwise. One example: I adore the classic TV show Twin Peaks. It’s right up my alley: quirky, dark, well-written, and often very funny (basically, it’s me if I was a television program). A few weeks ago I noticed that the show’s co-creator, writer extrordonaire Mark Frost, had started using Twitter (look him up under the twitter handle @mfrost11). I responded to one of his tweets, we started a conversation, and now we are “talking” almost every day. We found out we had a lot of common interests, including the show “The Prisoner,” another favorite of mine (my obsession with Patrick McGoohan’s masterpiece is reflected here). We exchanged many bon mots, and the esteemed Mr Frost even responded favorably to my writing, which.. well, there’s not a cooler thing in the world to me. Except maybe taking Mark out for drinks (which we hope to do at some point). Without technology this connection would have never happened, and I appreciate it even more because of it.

So, in closing, I like Dilbert, but Scott Adams needs to stop being so curmudgeonly. In this and several of his recent opinion pieces, he’s come off as Grandpa Simpson, yelling at clouds. The cloud doesn’t care, Scott. And it’s making the world a better, more connected place.

Joseph Dickerson is a user experience professional and UX Lead for Microsoft based out of Atlanta, GA. He has implemented processes in user testing, design and ethnographic research and provided design and consulting services for many different projects and organizations.

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