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This point was highlighted at yesterday's March on Washington, http://www.ppfa.org/march/ when over a million people marched for reproductive rights. All of the speakers emphasized the need to translate a one-time protest into ongoing engagement. To do so, we were exhorted by one of the speakers to take out our cellphones and for each of 1 million people to call someone else, not simply to spread the word but to make a plan of action. Unfortunately, this led to all the lines being tied up. But the point remains the same! On a related note, check out SENT, http://www.sentonline.com/project.html which is billing itself as the "first major exhibit of phonecam art in the United States" in which everyone sends in pictures taken with cellphones.

Larry Stillman

You are right about the return of the phone -- it is simple, and virtually universal (well, to many in community development communities). The only down side is the rise in sore necks as people try to take notes at the same time - phone headsets should be cheaper!

I suspect the dropping cost of international calls and voice IP systems like Skype are having a profound effect on personal, community, and business communications. We see it in Australia. We think nothing of calling overseas for long periods of time now. For group conferencing, the availability of free conferencing sites (in the US) to call into with phone cards has made it possible for small organisations to actively collaborate internationally. We are doing work that we could never do before, and email is only good as an asynchronic backup that is nothing like the quick chat (which happens an awful lot with skype).

However, while our networking is virtual, most of us have met once or twice, and this probably adds to the ease of use (we know each other's faces). Still, the 'protocol' of group meetings via phones is a bit different -- there is less umming and erring and interrupting as with one-to-one conversations, to keep the line 'clean'. This may lead to more 'considered' and less free conversations, as if 3 people talk at once without verbal cues, it is a problem. But is is possible to 'talk behind people's backs' and text message at the same time as talk on the phone....ethics here..

Some of the issues about working virtually remind me of working with blind people who cue through verbal cues. It is quite an experience to have one's face or hand cues ignored. And when blind people talk to one another it is just words, on both sides.

I hope that helps a bit in your thinking Aldo.

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