The Culture of Availability

I’m some 36,000 feet over…what out the window I can only guess is southern France and the Mediterranean Sea….I’ve been working on my presentations for the ECIS Admin Conference that I’m headed to in Portugal.

Trying to find some inspiration and motivation for my presentations I’ve been watching some TED videos that I have on my iPhone and came across this 3 minute gem.

This is the first time I’ve heard this phrase of a “Culture of Availability” and as soon as I heard it, it made the hairs on my neck stand up. I like it when I’m hit with things that until that point I really hadn’t given a lot of thought to.

It’s a good little video and as I think about this new culture that we’re in I can’t help but think of how we want to be, and feel the need to be, available to people. And more importantly how we feel that others should be available to us when we need them.

Of course a lot of this comes from mobile devices and the ideas that we’re “always on” with our cell phones and smart phones.

A perfect example of this was just a couple of hours ago while I was in Istanbul on a 3 hour layover and full out expected there to be wireless. Do you do this when you go places? Just expecting there to be access to the Internet and then find yourself very disappointed when there isn’t?

Of course that’s only the first part. Once I had the connection the second part was this culture piece. This expectation that others would be available to me to “waste time” as I sat in the airport.

I caught my wife on Skype on the iPhone and I let her know via chat that I had landed and was standing in line at the Starbucks. Later on I called her and we talked for about 45 minutes.

Then I went to Twitter fully expecting there to be people available to me and sure enough I had a fun little conversation around peoples individual rules for counting visited countries (for my wife and I it’s 8 hours and must leave the airport).

We are living in a culture of availability. We don’t shut our cell phones off…we just put them on silent mode…and that’s OK. We as a society have adopted that as OK.

It’s OK to answer a cell call while having a conversation with your friends or family.

It’s OK to check an incoming SMS…to take that peak when in the middle of a conversation.

Why? Becuase we know that others expect us to be available to them, because that is our culture today.

Sure some of us of an older generation might find these things rude….but to the younger generation I would think these would be quit normal. Heck, even President Obama understands this culture of availability and would not give up his Blackberry so that his friends and family can contact him.

Because we live in this culture of availabilty or “always on” we participate in shared narratives. I’m still wrapping my head around this…but like where this is going.

“I share, therefore I am.”

I’ve relistened to this part of the presentation three times and like what he has to say.

“What we push out, becomes who we are.”

Whether that’s SMS, Skype, Blogs, Wikis, video, images, or status updates. We are what we share. Our shared narrative is the narrative we create with those available to us in our network…in our world. Not all of this shared narrative is done virtually. We still need to share in our ‘off line’ lives as well. Traveling with friends and family, having deep conversations around the dinner table; These too are shared narratives, narratives that many times manifest themselves on the web in one form or another and are shared via Facebook Status updates or Twitter updates….the lines are continually being blurred.

These status updates give meaning to those in between times. They are part of our shared narrative. As some of use wake up while others go to bed, we share space and time, for a moment in these updates and through them continue to share who we are…continue to write our narrative.

“Let’s make technologies that make us more human, not less.”

I think this is why Facebook and Twitter are so popular. “What are you doing now,” is a simple question but in this shared narrative we do care about what others are doing. We share and expect them to share with us.

Or the text message that simple states: Wht r u up 2?

We want to know, we want to share, we want and expect to be available.

Is it a good thing? I don’t know….there are times I personally don’t want to be available…but those times are few and far between and I, more than once, have ran back into the house to grab my cell phone.

Why?

……just in case someone needs me. 😉

 
Shared narratives