Connecting With Technology: A New Device Finds Fun and Value in Networking
April 2005 "The past is not dead. In fact, it's not even past." Is this observation of novelist William Faulkner true for technology? With the ubiquity of business and consumer information technology, some would say the art of conversation is dead. They claim that the artificial personal cocoon -- that started with the Walkman and intensified with the popularity of the iPod and text-based messaging -- has killed it. The Americana of spending summer evening on the front porch talking to friends and neighbors no longer exists and the skills to sustain it are no longer developed.
There is much evidence that Faulkner may have been on to something even as it relates to human interaction and technology. While individuals may not want to foster interaction, humankind in aggregate is constantly seeking new and better ways to do so. We are seeking ways to make it's-a-small-world-after-all-think into something useful and meaningful.
Business is further seeking to leverage technology to make those relationships more productive and personal -- especially with mere acquaintances or strangers. This is manifested in the marriage of customer relationship management (CRM) systems and portability of vast storehouses of behavioral and demographic data. As people who rely on technology to tell us about those we have connections with, we may not remember details as well as in the past. Still, we are trying to make the interpersonal experience deeper. Knowing relevant information, eliminating the awkwardness of being reintroduced to someone you already know, and becoming reacquainted with people are some of the outcomes of this information. We are using technology to catch up quicker, find common points of reference for building friendships on, and even simply stay in touch better.
Still, the corporate get-together, cocktail party, conference, networking event, or even association meeting creates unnecessary anxiety for many of us. How do we use our time participating in ways that build networks, relationships, and friendships with so many people in attendance? How do organizers strengthen their communities with so much technology-induced introverted behavior? In fact, how do we use technology to enhance those events?
A small company called nTag Interactive Corporation (nTag.com) is working to do just that; building on social and technological research developed at the MIT MediaLab, nTag is working to change the way organizers, attendees, and exhibitors interact and work with each other at and following any event.
Recently, I met with CEO George Eberstadt to see his product and to discuss how it is used. Because the nTag concept is so novel, describing it is difficult without demonstrating it. The nTag is a wearable computer that hangs around your neck and can perform many functions, all focused around streamlining the human dynamics of an event.
Fun. Despite our expectations of anonymity using technology communication, nTag works to change that in a fun way. It is new, but very simple. It is sophisticated, but intuitive to all ages. And its novelty makes the exercise fun. The nTag helps accomplish the following:
Value. To appreciate nTag is to embrace the value and utility of this technology from the different viewpoints of an event. Let's look at them briefly.
While nTag may not be appropriate to every event, it does force all to reevaluate both our interactions with computers instead of machines and even how we interact with people. Dale Carnegie and many like him wrote and lectured extensively on the value and importance of the human bond in business and socially for success. Technology should be viewed as a tool, not a crutch, to accomplish this, and nTag is revolutionizing the thinking of how we can adopt technology as a relationship tool.
CHAIM YUDKOWSKY, CPA, CITP, is Director of IT for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) based in Washington, DC. He is also president of Byte of Success Inc., a technology consulting company specializing in helping small and mid-size business grow using technology. He is available for both consultation and speaking. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org SmartPros Ltd. All rights reserved.