Physical, Digital, Categories, Tags, Experts… [en]

[fr] Le numérique révolutionne la façon dont nous organisons l'information. "Une place pour chaque chose, et chaque chose à sa place" vaut pour les objects physiques. Cette excellente petite vidéo démontre ces changements. C'est en anglais, mais il n'y a rien à écouter (sauf de la musique) -- il suffit de lire.

If you’re still a bit in a fuzz about how exactly the internet is revolutionizing the way we store and retrieve information, this great little video should help. It’s pretty fast-paced (watch it twice if necessary) and the music is very nice.

Thanks to [Euan Semple]( for pointing it out.

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Technological Overload or Internet Addiction? [en]

[fr] Les vidéos du fameux débat sur la surcharge technologique à LIFT'07 est en ligne. Du coup, l'occasion de rappeler mes deux billets sur le sujet, et de rajouter quelques pensées suite à ma participation à la table ronde sur les cyberaddictions à Genève, entre autres sur la confusion entre dépendance et addiction parmi le grand public, et le fait qu'on perçoit souvent l'objet de l'addiction comme étant le problème (et donc à supprimer) et non le comportement addictif. Mes notes sont à disposition mais elles sont très rudimentaires.

For those of you who enjoyed my [Technological Overload Panel]( and [Addicted to Technology]( posts, the ( is now online.

Since I wrote them, I participated in a panel discussion about cyberaddictions (that’s what they’re called in French) in Geneva. It was very interesting, and I learnt a few things. The most important one is the difference between “addiction” and “dépendance” in French. “Dépendance” is physical. The cure to it is quitting whatever substance we are dependant to. Addiction, however, lies in the realm of our relationship to something. It has to do with *how we use a substance/tool*, what role it plays in our life and overall psychological balance. And it also has a component of **automation** to it. You don’t *think* before lighting up a cigarette, or compulsively checking your e-mail.

I think there is a lot of confusion between these two aspects amongst the general public, which leads to misconceptions like the [“cure” to alcoholism being complete abstinence]( Sure, abstinence solves the substance abuse problem and is better for one’s health, but it doesn’t necessarily solve the *addiction* problem.

Addictions which are linked to otherwise useful tools are forcing us to look deeper (and that is actually what I’m trying to say in the [Addicted to Technology post]( The problem is not the substance (ie, alcohol, or even the drug, or in this case, technology). The problem is in the way a person might use it. Hence I maintain that the solution lies not in the **removal of the tool/technology**, as the panel moderator suggests twice (first, by asking us to turn off our laptops, and second, by asking “how to unplug”), but in a careful and personalised evaluation of what one uses technology for (or what one uses technology to avoid).

I had a talk after the panel with one of the people there, who told me of some rough numbers he got from a consultation in Paris which is rather cutting-edge when it comes to dealing with “internet addiction” amongst teenagers. I think that out of 250 referrals (or something), the breakdown was about the following: one third were parents freaking out with no objective reason to. Another third were parents freaking out with good reason, for the signs that brought them there were actually the first indicators of their child’s entry in schizophrenia. I can’t remember the exact details for the last third, but if I recall correctly the bottom line was that they had something like a dozen solid cases of “cyber addictions” in the end. (Please don’t quote me on these numbers because the details might be wrong — and if you *have* precise numbers, I’d be happy to have them.)

This confirms my impression that people are [a bit quick in shouting “internet addiction”]( “5-10% sounds like way too much.”) when faced with heavy users (just like people are a bit quick to shout “pedophiles!” and “sexual sollicitation!” whenever [teenagers and the internet]( are involved). I personally don’t think that the amount of time spent using technology is a good indicator.

I took [some very rough notes]( during the panel I participated in (half-French, half-English, half-secret-code) but you can have a peek if you wish.

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Culture Shock in Second Life [en]

[fr] Second Life est vraiment ressenti par ceux qui l'utilisent comme un espace physique. Preuve en est le sentiment de désorientation qui m'habite alors que je découvre cet espace -- sentiment très proche de celui qui a accompagné mes premiers jours un Inde: un choc culturel. On trouve également dans Second Life des problèmes de racisme. A mon avis, un terrain fertile pour mieux comprendre, par exemple, comment l'utilisation de jeux vidéos interactifs (comme WoW) peut agir sur nous.

After [my first few hours inside Second Life](, I realized that the confusion I was feeling was very similar to what I had experienced when I [first arrived in India]( I was suffering from a [culture shock]( “Some thoughts I wrote down after a few days in India, in French.”).

There were people all around me that looked like nothing I’d ever seen before. I had trouble communicating (I’d try to chat and I’d fly up in the air) and identifying what I saw in my surroundings. I didn’t know where to go. I read notes which mentioned places which ringed no bells. I just didn’t know what to do or where to start.

But what really rang the “culture shock” bells for me was that I was feeling anxious and afraid of the avatar-people around me. I feared somebody would pounce on me (well, my avatar, but by then the identification process had kicked in), or animate my avatar against my will, or start shouting obscene things at me. I felt pretty insecure and vulnerable amongst all these people with masks on their faces. I had no idea what to expect from them, just as I had no idea what to expect from people when I landed in India.

In India, I was afraid to go out by myself and explore. In Second Life, I get some of that feeling too. I’m afraid of ending up in “bad places”. Talk of griefers and guns makes me scared. So I tend to hang out in the [New Citizens Plaza]( a lot. *(Note: if you click on that URL, you’ll be shown where that place is on a map of Second Life. If you’re running Second Life, you can click on the “Teleport” button to go there. Doesn’t seem to work for me, though.)* Then last night [buridan]( showed me to [Joi](’s [island Kula]( (fun stuff there with merry-go-rounds and dancing floors).

The interesting point here is that I’m exploring Second Life space just as I do real physical geographical space. I find the same patterns in my behaviour. Same with activities that do not match anything in my life experience yet: flying, teleporting — I don’t tend to do these things much yet, just as it took me a while to start taking rickshaws on my own, queueing to get somebody else to photocopy (“Xerox”) documents for me, and fend off beggars efficiently.

Second Life is much more than “chat with graphics”. As I told my Grandma on the phone yesterday, when she asked me what on earth my last posts were about, it’s almost like an “internet inside the internet”. There are chatrooms in it, but they are informal and transient: put a few people in an open space, and if they gather and start talking, you have a chatroom-like atmosphere. But you can walk/fly/teleport away, [do your hair]( or build/program stuff while the others talk. All that without leaving Second Life.

As a long-time IRC chatroom inhabitant, I see two major differences between what I’m used to and Second Life.

From the chatroom point of view, first of all, you cannot be in two places at once inside Second Life. On IRC, I sit in way more than one chatroom at a time, and it’s not uncommon for me to be conducting conversations in two or three chatrooms at once. In Second Life, you can send private messages in parallel to the “physical group conversation” you’re having, but you can’t have more than one group conversation.

Another “quality” of Second Life that strikes me is that it’s less “partial-attention-friendly” than text-only chat or instant messaging — or even web surfing. I find it very hard to do “something else” at the same time as I’m in Second Life. I think it has something to do with the graphical nature of Second Life, and how rich an environment it is. There’s enough material *inside* Second Life for partial attention as it is 🙂 — but also, the fact there is a graphical representation of the people you’re chatting with helps capture one’s attention. (Maybe I feel things this way because I’m new to Second Life, I might think differently later on.)

So, even though Second Life is an entirely on-the-computer thing, it clearly activates the pathways in our brains that we use to deal with physical space and beings. I’ve already said many times that the internet is broadly perceived as “space without space”, but it’s much more obvious in Second Life. Another element that shows us how “real” this virtual environment is to our brains is the presence of [racism in Second Life]( The topic came up when I was talking to a few “Furries” (ie, people with an [animal-like avatar]( who mentioned there were “furry areas” because Furries were often subject to discrimination from others. Even though we know the aspect of a Second Life citizen is a mask, it seems to have an impact on the way we relate to him/her.

This, to me, is related in some way to the fact that the learning experiences you make in interactive virtual worlds (think “video games”) affect your “non-game” life as well (think “flight simulators”). Which can bring us to question, for example, what effect it can have on one’s brain to spend a long number of hours “killing virtual people”. But that’s another chapter!

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