Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Ambient Awareness. The cloud killer app?

Ambient Awareness: the ability to acquire, process, and act upon application specific contextual information, taking the current user preferences and state of mind into account.
In the September 5th New York Times article, "Brave New World of Digital Intimacy", Clive Thompson really got me thinking about how cloud computing, social networking sites like Facebook and adhoc information networking tools like Twitter are combining to mold our future social interactions. This social transformation may also provide new tools to address situational awareness requirements within the national security community.
While a Twitter stream of consciousness may, on the surface, seem useless, the paradox of ambient awareness may make such technologies incredibly useful. As Clive Thompson says in his article:
"Each little update — each individual bit of social information — is insignificant on its own, even supremely mundane. But taken together, over time, the little snippets coalesce into a surprisingly sophisticated portrait of your friends’ and family members’ lives, like thousands of dots making a pointillist painting. This was never before possible, because in the real world, no friend would bother to call you up and detail the sandwiches she was eating. The ambient information becomes like “a type of E.S.P.,” as [Ben] Haley described it to me, an invisible dimension floating over everyday life.

“It’s like I can distantly read everyone’s mind,” Haley went on to say. “I love that. I feel like I’m getting to something raw about my friends. It’s like I’ve got this heads-up display for them.” It can also lead to more real-life contact, because when one member of Haley’s group decides to go out to a bar or see a band and Twitters about his plans, the others see it, and some decide to drop by — ad hoc, self-organizing socializing. And when they do socialize face to face, it feels oddly as if they’ve never actually been apart. They don’t need to ask, “So, what have you been up to?” because they already know. Instead, they’ll begin discussing something that one of the friends Twittered that afternoon, as if picking up a conversation in the middle."
To me, this is the essences of situational awareness. An ability to sense and understand your environment and the actions of others in that environment. Clive goes on to explain that sociologists have found that “weak ties”, such as those created by twittering, greatly expands an individual's ability to solve problems.

Laura Fitton, a social-media consultant, with over 5,300 followers on Twitter, brags that she can solve any problem on Twitter in six minutes!
Yes. This certainly is a brave new world.
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