Location-aware Computing: Walking the Talk, Mapping the Walk

WiFi and Community

A recent Boston Globe article quoted Boston City Councilor John M. Tobin Jr. as saying "[WiFi] promotes community ... It gets people out of their dorm rooms, out of hotel rooms, and out in the parks and out in restaurants." While WiFi may encourage people to bring their laptops out of their homes, dorm rooms or hotel rooms, I don't know of any evidence demonstrating that this engenders a stronger sense of community in the WiFi-enabled physical spaces to which people bring their laptops. Seems to me that WiFi actually tends to detract from the sense of community in such places: people with laptops nearly always seem more engaged with their virtual communities (via browsing, email, instant messaging) than with the physical community of people with whom they are sharing space. I do believe that the addition of a key shared resource -- whether it be a shared display or an active virtual community tied to the physical place (or both) -- would promote a sense of community, but [alas] this does not appear to be a dimension that is typically considered in the various plans for wireless metropolitan area networks I've seen.

[via telecom-cities]

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