I can remember when the most exciting thing to happen on the internet was sending an email, and waiting a week to get a response because the other person wasn’t attached to it. Now we have the entire world’s knowledge tucked away in a super computer in my pocket. My children now speak in acronyms, they send photos with filters and talk to each other through a service called Discord. I used to laugh at my mother unable to program the VHS machine, and here I am barely keeping up with the technological advances since the mid noughties. I Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to my heart’s content, often having holidays from Facebook before my iPad flies through a double glazed window. Asking a forty year old what is cutting edge will certainly give a different answer to an eighteen year old.
I can remember my son showing me Snapchat a few years ago and being amazed at the filters. I understand how complex the coding must be, a distinct mix of artificial intelligence to identify the faces in the camera, and augmented reality to overlay a filter of ears or horror masks. I thought this was cutting edge, but as I research the latest developments in augmented reality I am increasingly excited about how augmented, and increasingly virtual reality will increase the sphere of possibilities in visual communication.
Microsoft talks about their contract with the US military, and how augmented reality will be able to give them real time information about the environment they are in (Forbes, 2019). As Walmart talks about using VR technologies to train the customer-focused staff of the future, I wonder when mainstream education will be better customised to the student. When the digital knowledge of the world is linked with personalised training programmes, and augmented or virtual reality systems, surely that will provide us with students educated for an ever changing jobs market? I’m already stunned at the levels of VR ready machines already available for home use, from the playstation through to personal computers and even mobile phones. I can already purchase STEM based kits for my son, which come with Google Cardboard so he can see science experiments in a VR classroom.
When you start to investigate the equipment and discover that Facebook bought Oculus in 2016 you realise that there are clearly more communication ideas in the pipeline. To be able to have coffee with a friend who lives on the other side of the world would truly make Marshall McLuhan’s idea of the ‘global village’ a reality (Explorations, CBC, 18 May 1960). We are seeing the emergence of the global village, how communications, both visual and auditory, are connecting people at a phenomenal rate around the world. We are seeing protests becoming global, not local, we can see how a pussy protest in the US travelled over the pond to the UK and happened here too, at the same time. How the yellow jackets of France were able to join in the People’s assembly protest in London, and correct people online as they tried to co-opt the message.
I am reminded of the yahoo chat rooms in the emerging days of the internet and wonder if the conversations over my son’s discord server aren’t just the same conversations wrapped in a better technology. Hopefully, once the cutting edge of the technology dulls a bit, we can use this technology to connect the world in ways that improves living conditions for the whole globe, and not just the ones in their ivory towers.