George Siemens wrote an interesting post yesterday on the narrowing gap between virtual reality and reality. Starting from the changing behaviour of conference audiences who no longer sit patiently and listen but tweet, blog, tag, chat and fact check, George explains his desire to have an "overlaying data layer on the physical world... such as walking through a historical district and being able to see buildings on your mobile device as they looked 100 years ago"
He concludes that the integration of the physical self and the online self is the greatest challenge facing technologists, arguing that total convergence is the likely outcome.
Now, I'll be the first to admit that a Terminator like Head Up Display which offers us the constant seamless ability to access data on our multiple realities would be very cool. Moreover, I am sure that they will be available, if indeed there are not already some working prototypes. But I wonder whether it would necessarily be a good thing...
Moreover would it be put to good use? More (data) does not necessarily mean better it just means more.
I'm tying myself in mental knots here because by nature I am a liberal - throw open the doors see what happens type, treat 'em like grown ups. As appear to be many in the informal learning community and associated networks. But at the same time it remains true that you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it think... Many people, I would even go so far as to say, the majority, want to be told what to do.
When I wax lyrical about the opportunities for learning in this brave new world even some of my own staff say, "Yeah, it's OK for you to say that. You're educated, curious, enthusiastic... I can't see the relevance."
Now I am really heading into dangerous territory.
Might it be the case that people without the skills to sift, sort, weigh and assess the wealth of available information will marginalised; left at the side of the pool afraid to jump in. Those with confidence to jump in, who lack these metaphorical data swimming skills or who don't learn them fast will drown. Think of how many people cross the road or drive while texting. This figure will rise exponentially with the increase of available distractions. "Surfing related death" will become a whole new category in our national statistics
Previously knowledge was power because most people couldn't be trusted to deal with the information. Where data is ubiquitous, does "data swimming" become power because most people simply can't handle the information.