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Welcome to the Real Time Office

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17th Mar 2010

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It's hard to believe, but just 15 years ago the Internet as we know it hardly existed. In 1995, Netscape released its first Internet browser, changing the way people accessed the nascent world wide web and unleashing a wave of communications innovation that continues to morph at rapid rates.

Along with the growth of the Internet, we have also seen an explosion in mobile and laptop computer technology that promises to keep us constantly in touch, ever deeper connected - real time. These twin innovations in software and hardware are continually evolving, forcing us to adapt and change as we watch them lead us into new social and work territories.

Every so often when trying out a new technology there is an "a-ha" moment, where suddenly it all clicks and you capture a glimpse of how your life is about to permanently change. The exploration of a new device, the discovery of a new website or service, and the feeling that comes when you master them, can be a tech junkie's thrill.

Such a moment occured last summer, when the Hub Culture team was preparing to open a new Pavilion in Ibiza for the summer season.

As usual everyone was running late, and had piled a taxi to the brim with luggage and people for a long drive to Luton airport, outside of London. As a fast growing global social network, Hub often must endure expensive long distance calls to offices in other lands, hard enough from a fixed location, but always a hassle when speeding through traffic.

Fortunately, an investment had been made in the new Orange 'dongle' -- a device that plugs into the laptop to enable roaming while on the go. From the back of the taxi speeding down the motorway the group made a first video connection with the dongle, allowing a Skype call to the New York office to discuss something probably inconsequential. The experience of using a dongle like that for the first time was one of those thrills - you know life will never be the same afterwards.

The experience essentially turned the back of the taxi into a video conferencing location, complete with whizzing trees and speeding cars for the background - a far more interesting view than the conference room that greeted on the other end. Just imagine four people squashed into a taxi filled with luggage, trying to conduct a video meeting at 75 kph. That's real time web.

Evidence points to a conclusion that technological change is rapidly gaining velocity, forcing social changes that we can only partially understand. Is a pool lounger in Ibiza an appropriate place to hold your 3Q quarterly finance call? The answer is Yes!

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As we become more connected, the need to stay constantly connected grows. Hub Culture members know this well - constantly attached to a laptop, BlackBerry or iPhone, we've long since given up pretending we're listening to any given conversation in real life, constantly pawing and checking for the latest SMS, tweet, BBM, or email. These devices become an extension of ourselves, and change the relationship between work and social - merging everything into a networked series of projects. So it's okay - just place the pina colada outside the viewing angle of the webcam.

This new world has changed social anxiety, creating daisy chains of reactions in social groups. When one person in a group checks their phone, the rest of a group tends to instinctively do the same. When friends in a nightclub turn away for a moment, we now reach for a device to update our current status. This is creating a form of rolling conversation (especially with chat) that means we are simultaneously managing many conversations, experiences and connections, increasingly in real time.

This kind of rolling activity is a far cry from even a couple years ago, and points to a future where we maintain realtime, rolling conversations as a matter of course. Our spatial awareness is widening our horizons and ability to maintain many conversations and thoughts at once, and at the same time preventing deeper focus or attention on a single item.

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We are increasingly living in an ADD world. This is changing our society in profound ways, making us better informed and educated, and resulting in ever faster transactions and decisions. The connectivity slows the decay of one-off connections, but requires a less in-depth connection to many. We live in warp speed, and the pace only quickens.

Does everyone need to see the tricked-out convertible you just spotted rolling South Beach? Or to troll through pictures on Facebook uploaded on the fly from a big night out? Not really. But the more this realtime web becomes the norm, the more our business contacts demand a social backdrop to the people they do business with. For some this means a more conservative approach - for others it means 'hey, we all like to have fun.'

It really doesn't matter if others approve, or if your online antics wouldn't interest a fly. The reality is that business demands constant access and response - making it tough to plan, but easy to adjust. These days you often have one chance to impress a client, 5 minutes in a day with someone ready to take your call. Hub Culture members live solidly in this fluid, project oriented world, and they need new resources to manage themselves for the future, whether its using a Hub Culture Pavilion as a place to work, or a chance to use a global digital barter currency, Ven, to make it all happen. Nevermind the services!