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Online, Offline… Where’s The Line?

We’re living in a world where classifying relationships as purely online or offline is becoming more and more difficult–and less and less relevant. In large part this is because so many people are now online thanks to the simplification of access and interaction. We can all be producers as well as consumers, social connectors as well as information seekers…All through a light tap on a screen.

The line between online and offline is blurring if not completely disappearing. Basic apps let us organize in-person meetings, networks let us find local events, mobile phones let us do just about anything on the go. We always have the option of being connected to others. This change in Internet use from information seeking to social engagement is also changing the ways we interact with other media and one another.

What is really fascinating is the power media-supported connections bring to local community. There are two TED Talk topics that speak directly to this. One was released this month by Jennifer Pahlka: Coding a better government. She says it’s not only about making a better government, but becoming better citizens by using our hands (through media connections and local action) as well as our voices.

The other is the 2012 TED Prize winner, whose wish focuses on using media technology to connect globally and locally.

“You can forge a new urban outlook. Begin by connecting. Imagine a platform that brings you together, locally and globally. Combine the reach of the cloud with the power of the crowd.”

Although the site is still in beta, and I haven’t been able to create an account, it’s still worth checking out: The City2.0

There is an interesting pattern in studies on sense of community, social cohesion, and even friendship that shows people who connect with others do so no matter where they are. If you have lots of friends in your neighborhood, workplace, or local community you are also likely to have lots of friends online. These relationships bounce around across borders too. Often people who meet online will meet in person later, and people who know one another in person reconnect online.

Media tools are being harnessed for things we want to accomplish in our local communities and helping those things to happen faster and more efficiently. They are providing new ways to communicate, collaborate, and connect. But some day soon online will just be a part of the everyday offline activities. Something along the lines of how the term horseless carriages faded out of use.

See my related storify for more links/resources.