Last night, we were driving around during the first thunderstorm of the season, trying to see if there was any stormchase-worthy cells nearby. Josh turned on the ham radio, and a club meeting was in progress. It was kind of interesting to listen to the radio protocol and the ham radio news- a whole world I barely knew existed. Something that was said struck me as odd- then I realized that the fact it struck me as odd was evidence of my age.

An announcement was shared and then it ended saying "To get involved, contact Jim, call sign AB1XYZ"

Knowing how ham radios work, my first thought was, "What? How is someone supposed to get a hold of him? There's no way to leave a message on ham radio, so people will only be able to contact him if they happen to be on at the same time as he is, and on the same frequency."

After thinking that, I realized that ham radio was a time-dependent communication medium. You and the person you're communicating with must both be sending and receiving at the same time for any communication to take place. Every other communication medium I've used, save face-to-face, is time-independent. If I email someone, or IM them, or send them a letter or a text message, they can read the email at their convenience. TV can be DVR'es, and newspapers have always been time-independent. If I call someone and they aren't there to answer the phone, I can leave them a message. The time I'm sending the message is independent of the time they receive the message and reply. The two actions can happen hours or days apart. This is what I am used to. Voicemail and digital answering machines were invented before I was born. In my experience, "being present" has never been a requirement to communicate.

So, what type of communication is time-dependent? Face-to-face, obviously. If I speak to someone else, and they're not within earshot, communication doesn't happen- the message is lost. In the same way, telephones without answering machines are time-dependent- both parties must be present on  the line to communicate.  People in secretary or admin jobs rely on time-dependent communication- they're he ones greeting visitors or answering the phone when it rings. Radio is typically time-dependent. The only very-modern invention I can think of that is time-dependent is the live chat room, assuming no transcripts are available. Well, and the new Chatroulette- but that's a risky (or risque?) proposition.

Sadly, I participate in very little time-dependent communication every day. I send emails and IMs at my convenience, and answer them when I have time. I blog and twitter so others can read it later. I'm ashamed to admit I even avoid answering my cell phone when it's inconvenient, knowing that I can tell who called at a better time. Time-independent communication is ingrained in me.

So, is this bad? I don't think so- I mean, time-independent communication has existed as long as the written word has. But, I feel like I ought to be time-dependent more often. Make time for face-to-face conversations. Be present more. Drop everything an answer the phone, even when I know a long, inconvenient conversation could ensue. I love listening to the radio, and do so daily.

OK, so this is a really random rambling on a concept that's really not that groundbreaking. I can't believe you got this far. What do you think about communication- is time-dependent or time-independent more valuable?

1 comment:

Heather said...

Time dependent has more value, but I am glad to have both types.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin