Anyone under the age of 30 – skip this post.
From time to time, after I give a talk about technology and public service sector renewal, I end up getting a question from the audience to the effect of, “hey isn’t all this technology just isolating and distracting? Aren’t people who spend time online just sealing themselves off from the world?”
Despite the Web 2.0 explosion, their remain pockets of people for who the “geek” stereotype of internet user remains dominant. Stephen Johnson’s book Everything bad is good for you began to poke some cavernous holes in this stereotype – for example, white collared professionals who play video games are actually more social, more confident and more adept at solving problems than their colleagues. But then, video game geeks and internet users may be different people.
Trolling through some old emails I stumbled up some studies that challenged these stereotypes. A while back Alan Moore shared with us some of the following exciting (and expensive) conclusions of the University of South California’s Digital Future Report:
The Digital Future Project found that involvement in online communities leads to offline actions. More than one-fifth of online community members (20.3 percent) take actions offline at least once a year that are related to their online community. (An “online community” is defined as a group that shares thoughts or ideas, or works on common projects, through electronic communication only.)
So online activities actually lead to offline activity for a fifth (and growing percentage) of people. No surprise here. What surprises me are people who think the internet and the “real” world are some how disconnected things. They aren’t. As David Weinberger has so vigorously and effectively argued – the two are deeply emeshed in, and shaping, the other.