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Acute Communication Overload Syndrome

Suddenly, in the midst of my work, I experienced an acute communication overload syndrome.

I was talking to several people at once. I had ICQ, MSN and IRC running, all baked into Trillian. My Outlook was up on the screen. A collegue chatted with me over an internal MSN network. A friend sent me links on ICQ and my boss talked with me on ICQ. Just previously we had talked over Skype. The real phone was also ringing, although not for me; and fortunately, my cell phone lay silent.

This is starting to get out of hand.

Instant messaging is doing a lot to tie people together, but with all the different ways to communicate these days, I find myself looking more and more towards just one, simple, elegant solution: .....

I haven't found it yet. But I wish there was something that ultimately could combine all of these services into One. One ring to find them, one ring to rule them all... you know the rest. Something that could tie together
  • ICQ
  • MSN
  • IRC
  • Our internal MSN messenger service
  • Skype
  • My three email accounts
  • My five mailing lists I subscribe to
  • Usenet news
  • My cell phone
  • My desk phone
  • ...and my blog.
I would like some kind of Personal Communications Platform. For a while I thought my cell phone was my PCP, but it isn't. At least not as much as I would like. A cell phone is fundamentally disconnected, whereas Internet is fundamentally connected.

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It is, of course, a problem of locative separation. The normal way we separate the world into pieces we are able to handle, is through spatial separation. We exist in only one place at a time, and deal with the manageable subset of the world that exists at that location. With cell phones, that is breaking up to a temporal separation, where we deal with a subset of the world at different times. We interact with the physical surroundings around us, but also with another subset of the world through cell phone communications, which may or may not conflict with our spatial location at the time; nevertheless, we are able to reasonably isolate ourselves from our physical surroundings - through different means - to deal with communication over the cell phone.

With Instant Messaging added on top of this, all these three are combined into one. Any possible subset of the world may, at any point, chose to interact with you - sometimes even at the same time.

It is possible that with increasing media and communication techniques, we may need an entirely different paradigm altogether; perhaps a functional separation. That we need to recognize that people are performing within different functions. For instance, for myself, these following functions would readily be recognizable:
  • at work, engaged in a busy project
  • at work, doing miscellanous things
  • at home, doing nothing
  • at home, busy
  • on the shooting range
  • working on hobby projects (like CoWiki)
or maybe even other scenarios. An efficient Personal Communications Platform might sort the communication according not to spatial or temporal locations, but to functional locations. Right now I'm dealing with busy work, so my PCP wouldn't alert me to leisural communications unless I specifically checked in to it. While at home, my friends would take precedence over work-related items, and so on.

This does invariably represent a paradigm change in the management of communication, but maybe it's worth to think about. It could be the Next Big Thing. And I somehow have the feeling that it wouldn't be too difficult to implement.


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