Where We Work: The Online World

by Bibo Balahibo
(a.k.a. Angela Abaño, Mari Chiong, Spencer Galit, Ysa Gohh,
Cody Ipapo, and Rajah Padaen)

[Greetings! We are a group of college students, but for the sake of this blog, we will assume the identity of Bibo Balahibo and thus use the first person singular point of view.]

          I had a lot of friends who refused with all their will to create a Facebook account. However, the new nature of the demands of academics and organization work coerced them into succumbing to the world of social networking. The culture today greatly relies on the online world, and one of the most useful aspects, at least for my generation, is online group work and meetings.

         Our current technology has greatly revolutionized the way we do group work. Instead of going through the trouble of looking for everyone’s convenient times and travelling to a meeting place, we can meet online. You can meet with anyone anywhere as long as you have internet! Isn’t that amazing?

WOAH.

WOAH.

        There are multiple avenues for meeting with your groupmates, and these are the ones my peers and I like using:

1. Facebook Chat

Fb chat_crop(PROS) Majority of the people in my generation have a Facebook account. When we have group work, it’s an automatic agreement to meet up online, and the usual starting medium for our meetings is Facebook chat. We get to converse with one another after class from the comfort of our own homes.

(CONS) This may sometimes be difficult, however, as you cannot see your groupmates, making your meetings less personal. Not everyone is online at the same time as well. Also, it may be hard to maintain a stable train of thought. Conversations become messy as people can type and send messages to each other at the same time all at once, instead of people listening to each other uninterrupted. A spiral of silence also occurs, as members may be present online and reading the discussion, but not contributing to it.

2. Google Docs

(PROS) The magic in Google Docs is that multiple people can work on one document simultaneously, may it be a word document, spreadsheet, or slideshow presentation. Everyone can see the same document, leaving no need to share a computer or move from screen to screen. There is also no need to compile individual outputs, as the Google document is updated in real-time. Even with meetings in person, multiple people with their own laptops or iPads can work on one document at the same time while conversing with one another, taking productivity to the next level.

Google docs

(CONS) The major downside that I’ve experienced is the necessity of internet connection. Once you lose it, you cannot access or edit the document; thus hindering productivity. Moreover, there is a limitation of formatting and functions compared to full office programs. For instance, there are no word art, photo formatting, charts, shapes, and other higher-level formatting. However, it remarkably replicates a lot of functions of elite office programs, allowing it to be an effective processor in itself.

3. Facebook Groups

(PROS) Facebook groups allow easy sharing of information. We usually post the links to the Google Docs and other references, as well as important reminders. Scheduling an online or real life meeting is also made simple. There is also a “Seen by” function that keeps track of who have viewed your posts. What makes Facebook groups effective is that it is expected that your groupmates log into Facebook, usually at least once a day, so the dissemination of information is assured.

(CONS) People are not on Facebook eternally, hence they may not see your posts immediately. It takes time and patience before everyone is updated with the new content in the Facebook group. Moreover, similar to Facebook chat, a spiral of silence exists in Facebook groups. If nobody comments or gives feedback to your posts, then how will progress occur?

Fb Group

4. Google Plus Hangouts, Skype, ooVoo, and other video chat applications

(PROS) These multi-user video chatting programs allow real-time, face-to-face conversations with people in different places. Picture them as mini conferences online. You are able to see and speak with your groupmates despite being apart. Although these platforms are scarcely used for group meetings by my peers, they make it easier to communicate due to the presence of both sight and sound. For instance, I used Google Plus Hangouts recently for an organization meeting, and it was quite productive.

Google hangout(CONS) Google Plus Hangouts allow only a maximum of 10 users; Skype, 5 users; and ooVoo, 12 users. Having many people in a video chat may be convenient, but it is also difficult to discern who is speaking. In the video chat for my org meeting, some of them became distracted and played with the video effects, or some did other things despite being on chat. Moreover, fully effective meetings are difficult if your internet connection is slow. Slow connection leads to pixelated and laggy videos, as well as choppy and unclear audio. Your conversation would consist of mostly “What? Can you repeat that?” “What did you say?” or in my language, Hah? Ansaveh mo?

Imagining Possibilities

1. Large-scale online meetings

       With the rate technological innovation is going, it is not hard to imagine online meetings with over 30, or even over 50 people at once. There are already platforms for a large number of people in a group chat. For instance, Facebook allows chatting with an entire Facebook group at once, and groups may contain thousands of people. Imagine if this were possible for video chats!

Things to ponder:
Would a textual or video chat of this magnitude even be effective or productive?

2. Influential figures meeting online

          Look beyond meeting with your peers for school work. What if presidents of different countries met online? They would not have to travel to one another’s nations to discuss important matters. How about nobel laureates or scientists? Renowned experts from around the world could converse and work together to share discoveries and form even greater innovations!

Obama

Even Barack Obama has made use of Google Plus Hangout!

3. Telepathy Chip

    Telepathy chip      British Professor of Cybernetics, Kevin Warwick, is known as a “real-life cyborg” for “implanting a chip in his arm that could control computer-controlled devices.” Looking to the future, he aspires to “link [his] brain directly with that of another person in order to communicate – to carry out the first direct brain to brain communication experiment” (Caddick, 2012). He envisions telepathic communication among people, in which “we’ll be able to think to each other, simply by implants connected to our nervous system linking our brains electronically together, possibly even over the internet” (Warwick, n.d.).

          Just think of how this kind of technology can change the world! Ideas could be shared and conveyed to others in the exact way you think of it; leaving barely any room for misinterpretation. Our understanding of one another would reach unimaginable heights.

4. Holographic communication

          holographic-communicationHologram communication is a staple in science fiction movies, but the technology for it is actually being developed by the Human Media Lab in Queen’s University, Canada. It is a “holographic video conferencing system” that allows colleagues to communicate with one another through life-sized holographic projections (isgtw, 2012). Its applications for work allows peers to share their workspace with one another by having it projected in front of them, as if they were all in the same room, even if they were separated by geographical distances (Bailly, 2013).

Imagine this beyond the Star Wars movie.

Imagine this beyond the Star Wars movie.

Synthesis

         All in all, the current technological advancements have truly made working as a group more convenient. As there is less need to meet up in person, much travel time and energy are saved. However, there are multiple disadvantages that apply to all of these platforms.

          Firstly, they are internet connection-dependent. Without internet connection, online group meetings become ineffective, and the loss of connection becomes a huge hindrance for the entire group. Secondly, the online platforms provide opportunities for distractions. Browsing through other websites is just a few clicks away, and Facebook itself (as it is a social networking site) may serve as a hub for distractions.

My groupmates and I "hacked" Angela's Facebook account when she left her laptop with us to work on this blog.

My groupmates and I “hacked” Angela’s Facebook account when she left her laptop with us to work on this blog. Talk about distractions!

          Moreover, ideas flow better and faster when a group converges in person. Great ideas come about by being prodded by other ideas. When a group of people engage in a flow of ideas, they eventually lead to greater or newer ones. It is in real life meetings that ideas can be expressed clearly and at the instant they are thought of. Whereas working online has been shown to have hindrances to expression, hence stimulating ideas in other members becomes less feasible.

As shown by this poll posted in our Facebook group, although working online has its benefits, we cannot deny the importance of working together in person. In the end, we still used both.

As shown by this poll posted in our Facebook group, although working online has its benefits, we cannot deny the importance of working together in person. In the end, we still used both.

          In the long run, I believe that a mix of both real life and online meetings is good. There are benefits that working in real life has that working online doesn’t, and vice versa. The same goes for their disadvantages. However, in taking the two together, their advantages and shortcomings compensate for each other. For instance, you cannot spend an entire day (or even beyond) meeting with a group, but you can continue the work online. Conversely, a profuse flow of ideas is not as effectively fostered online, hence people still meet in person.

          Ultimately, neither methods of working in person or online are perfect, but taking them hand in hand creates a balance that leads toward effectivity and productivity.

success

References

Bailly, Nestor. “From Star Trek To Tupac: How Holograms Are Changing Communication.” iQ by Intel. N.p., 20 Feb. 2013. Web. 2 Aug. 2013. <http://iq.intel.com/iq/27880001/from-star-trek-to-tupac-how-holograms-are-changing-communication>.

Caddick, Amy. “The real-life cyborg – getting to know Professor Kevin Warwick.” Science Omega. N.p., 4 July 2012. Web. 2 Aug. 2013. <http://www.scienceomega.com/article/454/the-real-life-cyborg-getting-to-know-professor-kevin-warwick>.

“Is holographic communication a reality?” isgtw: International Science Grid this Week. N.p., 16 May, 2012. Web. 2 Aug. 2013. <http://www.isgtw.org/visualization/holographic-communication-reality>.

Warwick, Kevin. Interview. BBC News. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Aug. 2013. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/static/special_report/1999/12/99/back_to_the_future/kevin_warwick.stm>.

*The sources of the photos are found as links on the pictures themselves. (Click the pictures.)

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