Ambient Awareness: A Replacement for Social Connectedness?
Posted by JJ Miller
Ambient Awareness is a social science term Clive Thompson used in his article, Brave New World of Digital Intimacy, to explain the new constant online environment we communicate and interact in. This enables us to maintain weaker social connections in an incessantly overwhelming digital environment. Facebook was the frontrunner in this form of digital interaction but it has developed to now include microblogging, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Ambient awareness also considers the narcissistic. tendencies for people to think that every single little thought or occurrence in every moment of their life necessitates a social media post of microblog. This awareness and behavior weakens social ties and further creates an ego-centric mainframe where the social media user is not so concerned with what is going on in other’s lives but rather the importance of their personal posts. Are loose connections or acquaintances preferred over the deeper connection of the past?
Wikipedia further defines ambient awareness as an awareness propagated from relatively constant contact with one’s friends and colleagues via social media platforms. Wikipedia Ambient Awareness
It would seem that the constant connection created a deeper disconnect or even devalued the meaning in social interaction. It’s as if we don’t even
“see” each other as human beings but rather view these interactions as transactional.
Anthropologist Robin Dunbar believes that evolutionary structure of social networks limits us to 150 meaningful relationships at a time, despite the rise in social media. In the following TED Talk, “Why the Internet Won’t Get You Anymore Friends”, Robin Dunbar argues why social media doesn’t give us the expanded social connectedness that it promises. He makes you question the quality of communication done on social media platforms. Loose connections are the substance in social media communication.
So, how ambient awareness and the brain’s inability to have larger numbers of truly meaningful relationships effecting our workplace collaboration? Clive Thompson goes on to further discuss in his New York Times article that ambient awareness allows us to maintain weaker social connections that actually create more common ground in workplace collaboration because the ongoing updates build the social context for collaboration. B.J. McNely, in the October 2001 publication, Informational communication, sustainability, and the public writing work or organizations from Proceedings of the IEEE International Professional Communication Conference (1-7), further explains that social media practices such as micro-blogging, as discussed in this post, are not seen as formal work, but rather the informal communication that happens alongside the work. In this context, ambient awareness seems complimentary to the workplace by creating an informal way to collaborate that still builds trust and understanding.
While loose connections are viewed to be harmful to our social interaction, they do in fact have value in certain situations.
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