FRONTLINE Probes Evolving Digital Nation

PBS’s FRONTLINE recently took a fascinating look at our evolving online culture in a film that explores the pros and cons of the brave new media world we all inhabit. The film, titled Digital Nation, challenges assumptions about the negative effects of digital culture on childhood learning while also questioning if we even understand the social changes wrought by our always-online culture enough to render a verdict on the effects our virtual lives are having on society.

Showing a more optimistic attitude, Philip Rosedale of Second Life argues that in the last 50 years we have gone from movies shared in theaters to movies shared by a small at-home VCR audience to movies enjoyed solo on our iPods to a new social experience in which we can be physically alone but still communicating in real-time with many others via Facebook posts and Twitter feeds (remember the CNN/Facebook/Obama inauguration?). Have we come full circle and is the technology that once separated us now advancing to the point it can bring us back together, albeit in new ways? Great questions indeed. Answers TBD.

The film is available free online at PBS.org. A trailer is provided below.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6PRIGW6pqA]

The Real Power of Twitter – The Follow Button

I’ve come to the conclusion that the real power of Twitter is not the ability to broadcast your thoughts to the masses — it’s that little gray Follow button on every profile.

I’ve been tweeting, following, and generally twittering along for about eight months and what I get the most value from is the people I follow. Think about it, there’s not many ways to get great tips, tricks, and links to UX sites and discussions handed to you with the ease of a hallway conversation. I don’t work with Jason Santa Maria or Dan Cederholm (or any of the other great people I follow), but if they have a great resource to share it pops up on my iPhone during the morning or evening scroll through my TwitterFon updates. It’s much easier than managing multiple feed subscriptions and is available on all my computers and my iPhone without having to manage feeds for multiple devices. And if they are tweeting about things that don’t matter to me, I just scroll passed to the tweets that interest me.

For some people — marketers especially — the power of Twitter is in the ability to connect and communicate with people. And they are right, for what they are trying to accomplish. For me, and for what I hope to gain, the power is all in the little gray Follow button.

So follow me, or Zeldman, or anyone else you respect. You’ll learn something. I have.