Technology Review writes:
Constant connectivity has changed what it means to participate in a conference or any other gathering. Using chat rooms, blogs, wikis, photo-sharing sites, and other technologies, people at real-world meetings can now tap into an electronic swirl of commentary and interpretation by other participants–the “back channel” mentioned by Campbell. There are trade-offs: this new information stream can indeed draw attention away from the here and now. But many people seem willing to make them, pleased by the productivity they gain in circumstances where they’d otherwise be cut off from their offices or homes. There is meaning in all of this. After a decade of hype about “mobility,” personal computing has finally and irreversibly cut its bonds to the desktop and has moved into devices we can carry everywhere. We’re using this newly portable computing power to connect with others in ways no one predicted–and we won’t be easily parted from our new tools.
To grasp how rapidly things are changing, consider all the things you can do today that would have been difficult or impossible just a few years ago: you can query Google via text message from your phone, keep an online diary of the Web pages you visit, download podcasts to your iPod, label your photos or bookmarks with appropriate tags at Flickr store gigabytes of personal e-mail online, listen to the music on your home PC from any other computer connected to the Net, or find your house on an aerial photograph at Google Maps. Most of these applications are free–and the ones coming close behind them will be even more powerful. With more and more phones carrying Global Positioning System (GPS) chips, for example, it’s likely that companies will offer a cornucopia of new location-based information services; you’ll soon be able to find an online review instantly as you drive past a restaurant, or visit a landmark and download photos and comments left by others.