Shifting time and folding space

Yesterday I drove to a meeting in another state. On the way there and back, my car radio was tuned to no regular broadcast but instead to the pirate radio station in my briefcase. Its components: a $20 Belkin FM transmitter, a $90 Creative Nomad MuVo MP3 player, and do-it-yourself programming. As I drove to my destination, I listened to Shai Agassi's talk at the Accelerating Change Conference, courtesy of On the way back, I listened to an audio interview I'd done the day before, reviewing which parts I might want to use in a podcast or weave into an article.

When I got home, I dialed in to a conference call, fired up a WebEx session, and conducted another interview -- in this case, one that featured a demonstration of a software product. I made an audio/video recording of that demo, and, as soon as I get a chance to edit it down to the most interesting parts, I'll share it with you on my blog.

At the end of the day, it struck me that time-shifted content and space-folding telepresence are becoming complementary.


Martin Geddes, who blogs thoughtfully at about telecommunications and IT, recently asked an important question: "How do telecom and transport substitute [for] or complement one another?"

Geddes argues that although trillions of dollars ride on the answers, we mostly don't have a clue. It's a fascinating essay that I won't try to summarize, but one key point -- the distinction between "travel for sense of presence" and "travel for information exchange" -- is relevant here.

As Geddes notes, we're only now approaching the point at which telecom can sustain credible telepresence. Last weekend, my DSL was upgraded from 384Kbps to 3Mbps, and I can take it to 7Mbps if necessary. At what point does the link carry enough emotional bandwidth to begin displacing travel for sense of presence? I'm not holding my breath. Apple's iChat AV was cool before, and it'll be cooler now, but it's not going to replace face-to-face meetings any time soon.

Meanwhile, three megabits per second sure makes travel for information exchange seem sillier than it already did. Coupled with podcasting, it makes the two kinds of travel nicely complementary. The podcasting model is partly based on the assumption that TiVo-izing your audio content should be a scheduled process. Now that I can download hours of audio in mere seconds, I just grab what I need on the fly.

Shifting time, folding space, juggling atoms and bits -- is this how we want to live and work? Yes! [Full story at]

Reporting from the Integrated Media Association's New Media Summit last week, Steve Gillmor found himself in a strangely parallel universe. I had a similar experience after listening to an episode of This American Life and then following Ira Glass' reference to The site is an amazing showcase of, and resource for, audio storytellers. It hosts a collection of exemplary stories in downloadable MP3 format, plus tons of how-to material on gear, software, and techniques.

After I heard some of the shows on offer, including Phyllis Fletcher's Sweet Phil from Sugar Hill, Rene Gutel's 1,000 Postcards, and Christopher Lydon's The Whole Wide World, my first reaction was: OK, the jig's up, who do we think we're fooling? Most podcasters are audio newbies; these folks have spent years developing their art and craft.

On reflection, though, I realized that both parties will benefit from the imminent culture clash. Steve Gillmor reaches the same conclusion:

I told them they needed to get into the conversation, that they should hurry up adapting to the world and economics of page views and unique visitors and even more quickly move on to the burgeoning world of relationships, subscriptions and attention. I told them that the browser is dead, that RSS is about time, and efficiency trumps everything. They told me they have a deep bench of content, community, authority, and best practices, and they're working to make it available to our search and attention engines. [Steve Gillmor's InfoRouter]
We're going to get some serious cross-pollination real soon now, and it'll make things even more interesting than they already are.

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