Staring into the Infinity of Now: the challenge of living in RealTime

Doctor_who_untempered_schism the Untempered Schism [source] …the Doctor ran away, The Master went mad, I just keep staring at the Tweets and clicking on the links as they hurtle towards me

I have seen my future – it is TweetDeck on a SmartPhone – and it terrifies me.  I fear that my life will not be the same again.

it all started when earlier in the week I got round to downloading TweetDeck to my laptop, and lost the following two hours, and several hours since, jumping to links as they were delivered into my live feed.  it got me thinking about how much the way I consume stuff has accelerated over time…

Real_time_emergence 

I used to communicate pretty much exclusively asynchronously; if someone called me and I wasn't around they called back later or just didn't call at all.  but then things started speeding up, first with email and mobile phones, and then with RSS (which I never really got used to) and now Twitter.  at the end of this acceleration phase I now find myself plugged directly into stuff as it happens; I'm living in RealTime, my communications are predominantly synchronous.  I'm not alone.  in a brilliant post, Jim Stogdill describes a similar experience…

"Email was the first electronic medium to raise my clock speed, and also my first digital distraction problem. After some "ding, you have mail," I turned off the blackberry notification buzz, added rationing to my kit bag of coping strategies, and kept on concentrating. Then RSS came along and it was like memetic crystal meth. The pursuit of novelty in super-concentrated form delivered like the office coffee service … It was a RUSH to know all this stuff, and know it soonest; but it came like a flood. That un-read counter was HARD to keep to zero and there was always one more blog to add … From my vantage point today, RSS seems quaint. The good old days. I gave it up for good last year when I finally bought an iPhone and tapped Twitter straight into the vein. Yeah, I went real time."

the problem with staring into the infinity of RealTime is that your attention levels drop through the floor.  there's only so much attention to give, and as the density of the communications coming at me has increased my ability to stay focused on any one thing has declined.

Richard of Sydney-based Now and Next calls is Constant Partial Stupidity.  in a great post on his trend spotting site, he describes some of the symptoms of CPS…

"…how about your inability to remember multiple passwords, with the result that getting money out of an ATM at weekends has been turned into something resembling the national lottery? Or what about phone numbers? What is your home telephone number? Many people no longer have a clue and it’s not simply because they use a mobile telephone. This is the brave new world of too much information and not enough functioning memory"

my attention is increasingly focused on staring into the infinity of now, with the result that increasing amounts of my attention are being diverted to now, and away from my past and futures.

the history of my life since 19th February 2006 is contained with 5,150 gmails, all search-able in seconds.  I don't have to remember anything, so I don't.

I plan in the now too…  if I wanted a Playstation game (its XBox these days) I used to do my research in magazines and online – my attention was on the future.  now if I'm passing a shop I can check the reviews there and then, make the decision not in the past but in the now.

my world is collapsing into RealTime, and as a consequence my attention is being pulled away from my past and possible futures.  the implication for brand communications planning is obvious: the past and the future become irrelevant.  unless a brand is active in the moment, in RealTime, then they may as well not exist at all.

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