The Networked Body

September 1st, 2009, by Giovanni Rodriguez | located in Conversations | No comments yet | trackback

I had an out-of-body experience a few weeks ago, reported here on Twitter. Background: Before my Monday flight from San Francisco to Minneapolis, I had picked up copy of Fast Company at the airport. Had just enough time on the flight to read most of the magazine, and I really enjoyed it. But the entire time I was feeling dizzy, something approximating vertigo. I felt myself floating above my body, disoriented from the experience of reading a technology magazine in print. Yes, it’s been that long.

My odd experience came soon after reading about a 2006 blog debate about whether print or online offers the reader the more serendipitous experience — the experience of being able to discover things more easily, because of the way a particular world of information (print or online) is organized. What was making me dizzy was just how much stuff I might have been ignoring over the past few years when my reading was largely circumscribed by search, RSS and bookmarking (with two big exceptions: The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine). Sure, I probably read a lot more today than I did when I subscribed to every “new economy” magazine in the market. But my consumption of technology stories has been more structured, less daring, less serendipitous.

Which brings me to my favorite discovery during the flight — the emergent market for “body computing,” as evidenced by a string of mini-profiles in a section entitled “The Networked Body.” All sorts of interesting stuff happening here, much of it in the health-monitoring market. As it turns out, I was getting ready to train my searching robots on the general topic, but the magazine — one of the purest examples of bundled content, the driving business model in so many pre-2.0 markets — put the stuff right in front of me. And because I’ve been thinking about the topic (for this blog and another project) I especially joyed my magazine experience. I wouldn’t argue that this is the most efficient way of learning about something new, but it certainly was pleasurable.

One of the toughest things about life today is how much is planned and deliberate. A moment of freedom from the network — that is, pulling your body of the network — and you might feel an incredible surge of energy. And before we off off riffing on how technology might be developed to provide a digital equivalent to the print magazine experience, let’s not. No doubt we will have that someday. But let’s savor this moment a little bit longer. May not come again any time soon.

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