Communication options and The Tower of Babel

Before we developed our capability to use languages – to talk and listen by using an agreed upon vocabulary – there was probably no way to have some form of complex communication. Before paper and writing had been discovered there was simply one option: talk to someone face-to-face. After that one could decide whether to write a letter or meet someone to talk to probably after a multi day or week travel. And we rarely had the idea to communicate with people on a different continent.

Tower of Babel
"Tower of Babel" by ThomasThomas.

The phone invented more than 100 years ago opened up a third option and a real revolutionary one. Ten years ago many options had been added meanwhile, according to this 10-year-old article: audio tapes, video tapes, CD-ROMs, radio, fax, internet, e-mail, TV, video conferencing. What is meant by “internet” ? Well, remember, that was the Web 1.0 era, where a few could publish their messages through internet sites. Instant messaging and newsgroups are not mentioned as well but I guess have been available already to some extent, may be still too exotic in these days.

While reading through this list I realize how many options have been added meanwhile in the Web 2.0 era: blogs, wikis, photo and video and audio ( podcasts ) sharing sites, profile and social networking sites, bookmark sharing and survey sites, twitter, Q&A tools and collaborative document sharing sites. I believe: we experience a sort of exponential growth in the number of communication options.

This means that we have to invest some of our time in finding the right communication tool for a given purpose. Face-to-face, instant message, e-mail, comment on a profile page, blog post, wiki page, a document sent via e-mail or shared in any other way, a tweet, a  phone call, a video conference, a meeting in a virtual world ? And for each option we have to find out: company internal or public ? Within the boundaries of an intranet or going out into the wild wild web ?

Businesses are constantly adding new communication options, but they very rarely take any away. It’s also rare for them to provide any guidance to their employees to help them sort through the options.

Will this actually lead to a smarter society, will this increase the body of knowledge of the human race or a particular community or enterprise, or are we more and more running into confusion how to use all these options right, how to communicate efficiently ? Are we encountering a new Tower of Babel phenomenon ?

Instead of becoming smarter, don’t we spent much time on trying to consolidate all these sources of information and to worry about how to use what communication vehicle efficiently ? Is there any value add in developing tools to feed or integrate multiple communication tools ? Is it good to have multiple social networks which are different ? Isn’t it more good luck than intention to find some useful information ? How much time do we spend each day to learn new communication tools and communicate about communication tools instead of focusing on something more important ? is there anything more important ? Why do we fail to take options away, to consolidate and to reduce complexity ? Is the human race or an enterprise as a collective unit intelligent, are its individuals, and where are we heading with this ? What dominates in our life: competition or collaboration ?

Am I getting too far with my questions ? Definitely yes. I will need to write some more postings to really sort out this brain dump.


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