Electronic connectivity isn't all that great, warns computer guru

Jun 22, 2005

"Although sophisticated electronics gadgets are making the world appear smaller, distance should not die," said computer guru Darl Kolb earlier this week at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). Kolb, a visiting professor from the University of Auckland Business School, New Zealand, championed redefining the notion of distance as the electronic world changes lives. UPS Information Services, Mahwah, funded the lecture series sponsored by NJIT's College of Computing Sciences.

"Certainly, technological connectivity has increased exponentially in the last few decades," Kolb told the audience. "And, this connectivity has rendered the perception that distance as a phenomenon is diminishing."

But technical connectivity has its limitations and barriers, he warned. It is unevenly distributed and it doesn't always work well. And despite the availability of this highly connected world, people must continue to treat the concept of distance seriously. "Improvements in communication technology cannot completely overcome human needs for personal space, privacy and disconnections from others," Kolb said.

How to accomplish this task? Redefine distance.

"It ought not to be based on place or time," he said, "but on the disconnections between people. These discontinuities are physical or technical in nature (like waiting for trains or planes, being unable to access email, no cell phone coverage) and/or social and cultural (language barriers, lack of cross cultural understanding, political and economic barriers and so on). The social and cultural gaps are more challenging than faster or more pervasive Internet connectivity, he added.

Kolb then challenged the audience to think of what distance might mean in increasingly more mobile environments. How will people function when newer applications such as more complicated cell phones or wearable computers, render distances even less important.

"Essentially, how far is one point from another, when the destinations--or people-- are moving?" Kolb asked. His answer: Discontinuous connectivity. "Such connectivity allows us to deal with dynamic distance in a way that has meaning," he said pointing out how two-way radios connect mobile police, fire and service vehicles regardless of where they are physically located.

Beyond the theoretical, Kolb also studies how groups and organizations manage distance and isolation, an issue for New Zealand firms in a global economy. He has been gathering case material in Brazil and Alaska and Western Australia.

Kolb is a senior lecturer and group leader at the University of Auckland Business School, where he has taught in the MBA, undergraduate and graduate programs since 1992. His co-authored textbook (with Kerr Inkson), Management: Perspectives for New Zealand (Addison-Wesley-Longman), is widely-used in New Zealand.

The UPS Foundation is committed to making a difference through focus funded programs in the areas of human welfare, education and volunteerism. Established in 1951, The UPS Foundation identifies specific areas where its support will clearly impact social issues. The UPS Foundation's major initiatives currently include programs that support hunger relief, family and workplace literacy, and increased global volunteerism. In 2004, The UPS Foundation donated more than $39.9 million to charitable organizations worldwide.

Source: New Jersey Institute of Technology

Explore further: Ancient Greek well yields rare wooden statue

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA Webb's heart survives deep freeze test

7 hours ago

After 116 days of being subjected to extremely frigid temperatures like that in space, the heart of the James Webb Space Telescope, the Integrated Science Instrument Module (ISIM) and its sensitive instruments, ...

Recommended for you

Jerusalem stone may answer Jewish revolt questions

12 hours ago

Israeli archaeologists said Tuesday they have discovered a large stone with Latin engravings that lends credence to the theory that the reason Jews revolted against Roman rule nearly 2,000 ago was because ...

Kung fu stegosaur

12 hours ago

Stegosaurs might be portrayed as lumbering plant eaters, but they were lethal fighters when necessary, according to paleontologists who have uncovered new evidence of a casualty of stegosaurian combat. The ...

Color and texture matter most when it comes to tomatoes

13 hours ago

A new study in the Journal of Food Science, published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), evaluated consumers' choice in fresh tomato selection and revealed which characteristics make the red fruit most appealing.

New poll reveals what Americans fear most

13 hours ago

Chapman University has initiated the first comprehensive nationwide study on what strikes fear in Americans in the first of what is a planned annual study. According to the Chapman poll, the number one fear in America today ...

User comments : 0