Sunday, May 29, 2005

No wi-fi for you

Joe shares an interesting story about a local Seattle coffeehouse that has shut down its free wi-fi on Saturdays and Sundays because "it seems that nobody talks to each other any more" and "many of these patrons will camp six to eight hours -- and not buy anything". The matter of 'squatting' is interesting, but I don't understand what's going on there and, like Joe, I'm most interested in what might make computing (appear to be) more reclusive than reading - an activity that does not seem to have the same effect in this establishment.

In part, I think we still consider reading to be a leisure activity and computing to be work-related, and social custom suggests that the latter should not be 'interrupted' . (I'm reminded of Anthony Burke's comments about 'making perfectly good leisure spaces into workspace'.) In part, I think that computers are simply harder to 'use' than books or newspapers and so the 'user' may appear less open to 'interruption'. (And now that I think about it, we could probably ask more questions about how 'interruptions' play out.) I think that Joe makes a strong point about visibility as well: it's much easier to see what another person is reading than what they are doing on their computer. This visibility offers greater opportunity for interaction because people have a more obvious and tangible subject/object through which they can interact.

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