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Friday, April 22, 2011

Predicting the Future, Social Media Megalomania, and Being Nosy

Recently a reader asked me why I included Crewcast in the latest books. He didn't like the fact that there was any kind of social media reference in Spinward Fringe. it's not traditional, I'll admit, but I think it's essential. As I was writing my response, I realized it would make a better blog post, so here it is.

First, let's take a quick look at Crew Cast. It's a fictional information management system that is used by Spinward Fringe characters to find each other, see what people are doing professionally and personally, organize medical information, schedule gatherings, duty shifts, communicate, and much more. I'm sure you get the gist. It's the everything of social media, supervision software, and entertainment.

I included Crew Cast because it didn't make sense that they wouldn't have that sort of thing all figured out in the distant future. it also made more sense than the original concept in the First Light Trilogy - that our personal and professional lives would be managed by an artificial intelligence. That would be like having the voice of your mother, or little sister with you 24/7, telling you where to be and when. I love my mother, don't get me wrong, but she doesn't have to tell me when to brush my teeth or when to see my doctor anymore. An artificial intelligence nagging you on a fairly constant basis would drive me to drink. A lot.

While thinking about how we would be connected to each other in the future, I was obviously led to ponder how we're connected now. I very quickly came to a few realizations.

I'm convinced that the reason why I don't have a flying car, a Swiss Army knife with a fold out lightsaber, or the option to buy a condo on the moon is at least partially due to the fact that we're too busy looking at each other. I'm not talking about hanging out with your friends or loved ones in person. I'm talking about those disappearing minutes and hours when we open our email, check Facebook, LinkedIn, or are busy Tweeting, , or tweaking the knobs on our HAM radios. Okay, maybe not checking our LinkedIn accounts, no one really does that, do they?

The moment I start looking at social media my productivity begins swirling down the drain. I've seen it happen in to so many people now that I believe writers, hell, content creators and developers of all kinds, shouldn't turn their routers on until 4pm. These days, I try to avoid my browser completely until I have two thousand words down.

Since my brain is at least one quarter megalomaniacal villain, I immediately realized that it was all about the illusion of control. I love socializing on Facebook sometimes, even Twitter can be fun. I have some readers who message me sparingly these days because they're afraid that they'll slow my productivity and further delay the release of my next book. I hate to admit it, but they're at least a little right, but they're not part of the problem. Not even a little.

The problem is simple, sort of. I think I'm subconsciously trying to be as close to omniscient as possible. I don't think I'm the only one, either. I want to know what's going on with my fellow Tweeters, what's scrolling on Facebook walls, and who most recently stepped in to say hello on the Goodreads Forum. It doesn't stop there, but those are the biggies. Like a nosey suburbanite, I'm peeking over your fences, looking in your yards because I just can't help myself.

Ever since I had the notion that social media was a blue and white productivity vampire, writing and creativity have been going a little better. Day by day I'm creeping up on the average word count I had going three years ago, when I was putting a book out every four months.

So, back to the question that started all this. Why is Crewcast in the series? The answer can be summed up very simply. I predict social media will be with us for as long as we can produce the devices that facilitate its function. That's hundreds, maybe thousands of years into the future - I hope. I'm not going to say that social media is completely bad, either. Like most fixtures of the digital age, we are still learning about it. So far I think it's becoming obvious that there's a time and a place for its use.

As a side note, if James R Berry knew we'd have social media when he was writing about life 40 years in his future, I think he would have taken things down a notch. He got some of it right though, we love our gadgets.


Monkey photo credited to: Leo-Avalon

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