I have this idea that one day, we might all be robots. Or maybe not full robot, but just half robot. Like, we’ll all have blood and veins and organs and muscles and such, but (like our phones and tablets) we’ll have apps. Yep. Apps.
Some of us will purchase online road maps and navigation systems so that when we’re driving, a hologram of step-by-step driving directions is projected from our eyes onto our windshield. Some of us will download games that can be played using nothing but our mind, and some of us will download filters for our eyes that let us see the physical world in black and white, 2D, or even HDR.
Most of all, however, I think of the future and see everyone walking around the streets as per usual, except their online persona from Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr is surrounding them. His likes and interests are like 3D holograms that orbit his head, his favorite song is blasting from his ears, and pictures from his house party last night play like a slideshow behind his head. In other words, I have this idea that one day, our true physical selves will possess the ability to be multimodal. We will project sights, sounds, images, ideas, and beliefs, and we won’t eve have to say a word.
This is the online persona. It’s a uniquely stylized collection of personal and shared information expressed by means of text, image, sound, and video.
Some people argue that consumers use Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr (I’ll call it ‘FTT’) differently: some use it to archive the past, some to archive the present, and some for reasons completely different than those. Yes, people use FTT for different things, but what they choose to use it as tells us something about that person, right? People would also argue that FTT couldn’t possibly be an entirely complete online representation of one’s self. Well, that’s true. Obviously, a website can’t possibly represent every single last detail about a person, nor can it provide any information beyond what that person wants to share, but it’s not designed to. FTT is designed as an interface for users to express themselves through multimodality; express themselves through means by which they couldn’t otherwise express themselves in an offline venue.
Is FTT a good thing or a bad thing? When used properly, it’s always a good thing. It tears down physical constraints and extends our network of friends and acquaintances, it serves as an archive of information, and it allows users to create portraits of themselves in ways that had previously never been possible.
The creation of the online persona through FTT is a tool. Let’s say it’s a chainsaw. You’re not going to give a chainsaw to someone who isn’t capable of using a chainsaw, and you’re not going to use a chainsaw to hammer a nail into wood. That just doesn’t make sense.
FTT is a tool. When it’s used poorly, it can be dangerous, but when it’s used properly, it can be extremely effective.