Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Remote Possibilities

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Remote Possibilities

Article excerpt

Is it possible anymore to speak of a person being in a "remote location"? A writer I know told me recently of editing an essay on her iPhone while camping in Alaska, and it's almost commonplace to note that African farmers now check commodity prices on their mobile phones. We're all familiar with the many everyday efficiencies and pleasures--and anxieties and irritations--that come from being constantly and ever more intricately connected, but what has been the result in the larger sense? Have we been brought any closer together as individuals, groups, or nations?

To paraphrase Winston Churchill, we shape our technologies and then they shape us. But it's not at all clear how much they shape us, or how quickly. In his essay for this issue's cover story, "The Age of Connection," Ethan Zuckerman, a noted observer of the Internet, points out that the new technologies haven't yet done much to nudge people from their comfortable information pathways. Yes, social media allow people to share great quantities of material, but unless they have unusually curious and wide-ranging friends, little of what is sent their way is likely to broaden their horizons. …

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