It is no secret that I love the Internet. I love it because it makes me laugh uncontrollably. I love it because it is a source of endless knowledge. But most of all, I love it for the shared experiences it provides.
The most memorable times in my life have been shared with others. From my first sleep-away camp in 6th grade to, more recently, spotting meteors in a field with friends, these experiences were all lent intensity and meaning by the presence of others. Of course, there are the bad memories too: the pain of trying hard to fit in at a new school, the shame of falling short when teammates counted on you. Those, too, depended on others sharing the experience, defining it for what it is.
More and more so, these social situations that impact us so strongly don’t have to take place in physical space. The internet is getting better and better at creating authentic, palpable, and meaningful shared experiences between human beings.
I’ve been following Turntable.fm with curiosity and interest these past few weeks because it does such a good job of doing just that. Who knew that mere avatars and a shared sonic environment could make a motley collection of far-flung IP addresses feel like they… well, aren’t just that?
But even as it excels in creating these experiences, it has surfaced numerous problems in the process. The main problem that I’ve noticed is that, unlike shared experiences in physical space, interactions on Turntable tend to have a curious asymmetry to them. By this I mean that, for the average Turntable user, giving is easy, taking is hard.