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The Distance Divide

You may think this blog title sounds familiar . It should be as it combines two key themes from the 2000s: the Death of Distance and the Digital Divide.

One argues that technology has connected us all globally and overcomes distance which changes business models; the other argues that there are those who get digital and those who do not, and this divide disenfranchises the digital have-nots.

My argument is different.

I think these two themes have collided together to form the Distance Divide.

The Divide is not between those online and those not, but those globally connected and those not.

Globals versus Locals.

It's a Distance Divide.

It is well illustrated by my real-world social network, with most of my non-work friends living without twitter and facebook.

They live in bars and pubs instead, and I find I am the only one who lives in real-time networks.

I live surrounded by my real world, augmented by real-time reality.

My real world is watching TV in real-time, whilst debating the merits of the Apprentice with my distance community.

I live waiting for tweets, emails, texts and updates from my global social network, whilst sitting watching TV with my real-time local network.

My friends think I’m weird, needy, geeky.

They don’t get real-time, they get real-world.

They think the need to continually talk with strangers is strange.

They want to take away my gadgets and just make me sit, watching and chatting with them, which I can do and do do, but it’s so limiting.

Enriched by Dave who tells me that Alan Sugar was in his office today, and Emma who tells me that Stuart is a Douche Baggs, I then spot an important headline about Ambac filing for Chapter 11 and a joke from the Annoying Orange: “HEY! Did you hear about the cannibal that got expelled from school? He was caught buttering up his teacher. HAHAHAHAHA!”

It is a weird world but I am 24*7 globally connected, rather than living disconnected in my local world.

Or am I disconnected in my local world by being connected in a remote world?

In my local world, I only watch TV.

I get the news at 9 o’clock from the BBC or 24*7 on the news channels.

I get my news channelled and filtered, so I hear what they want me to hear rather than what I want to hear.

What does this mean?

Well, it was well illustrated by the G20 riot in April 2009.

I knew the police’s kettle action and death of Ian Tomlinson in real-time, and well before the BBC and Sky News, thanks to on-the-ground twitterati.

Similarly the death of Neda Agha-Soltan went global in real-time through twitter.

This is the world of the global social.

Whilst the local social may have deeper relationships in the real-world, they miss 99% of what’s happening in the real-world through filtering and channelling.

A way to illustrate this divide was demonstrated through last week’s SIBOS.

Many of us were following non-stop twittering feeds from the plenary sessions, such as those from @AndrewCarrier and the @SIBOS team.

Then there were those who got their news the next day, channelled through journalistic filters into SIBOS Daily News and SIBOS Issues.

The difference is that by the time the global socials saw the print media, it was old news.

We knew more than the filtered news and had little interest in the print media (not me btw: I collected all of those too!).

Old media is exactly that: old.  New media is exactly that: new!

This is why twitter is now bigger than the New York Times!

A four year old website is worth more than 160 year old major newspaper (the New York Times is the third largest newspaper in America).

Twitter is valued at $1.6 billion today, whilst the New York Times is worth $1.1 billion.

Our world is changing.

Our world is changing is illustrated by the fact that some people felt that they were at SIBOS last week, even though they weren’t.

Take this blog entry by Mike Parker at Sysparatem:

“It’s been fascinating to engage with SIBOS on-line and at a distance. Hopefully the means to do this will be even more fluent next year. I imagine different levels of feed could attract a reasonable charge. I have spent most of the time scanning posts, checking updates and investigating tweets and videos.

“It has been fascinating so far because the distance and lack of swamping from up close immersion (while reducing some opportunities) does give a longer range perspective. The large themes show in outline and you get a sense of what is bubbling away in the mix. That’s interesting and it’s important because it demonstrates the power of social media directly at the event.”

The point that comes out of this for me is that the global social lives in a world of chaos.

They are bombarded by alerts, tweets, texts and updates.

They live in a tsunami of news and commentary that they plug into their real world.

They meet strangers through networks and, before you know it, would trust them with their lives in some cases (see the future of money video).

They believe that their non-stop integration with the globe is important in being able to determine what they trust, when and how.

They build their own filters, their own news channels, their own entertainment, their own opinions, based upon uninterrupted and unexpurgated knowledge.

They have no boundaries.

Social Locals are viewed as being yokels.

Like the last century, where country bumpkins were denigrated by city gentry, the new divide is between the Global Social and the Local Social.

It is a Distance Divide, enabled by technology and changes the game.

Today, the government wants to get everyone online and overcome the digital divide.

Give it twenty years, and they will want everyone to be connected through social networks 24*7.

Some of us are already there and, for those who think we are needy and geeky, you probably didn’t want a mobile phone twenty years ago.

Now you find it indispensible.

Tomorrow, you’ll find your Global Social network to be the same.

See you tomorrow.


About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, the Finanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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  • Alex

    On my birthday, a fascinating post: one important point is missing (or is this evolution of thought?) is the impact of emotion: listening to someone and validating them is a whole body discipline, but is missing from the 24*7 world…
    Best wishes and keep the observations coming