Sunday, March 20, 2011

Facebook Can't Compete with Facetime

Here's good news for event organizers: Facebook can't compete.

There's science to back it up.

Edward Glaeser, in his book Triumph of the City, cites a University of Michigan study in which researchers organized groups of people and asked them to play a game requiring cooperation.  The researchers organized one set of groups that played the game face to face; and another set of groups that played by communicating electronically.

The face-to-face groups thrived; the e-groups collapsed.

Togetherness magnifies people’s strengths, Glaeser concludes. 

That's why companies located in the geographic center of their industries are more productive; why workers who live in cities see their wages grow faster than others'; and why inventors are inspired by other inventors who live in the same community.  And it's why, far from failing in the Internet Era, cities are blossoming.

"Humans communicate best when they are physically brought togther," Glaeser says.

Wired columnist Jonah Lehrer points to a second study by Harvard Medical School that asked whether physical proximity affects the quality of scientific research.

The researchers analyzed 35,000 peer-reviewed papers, mapping the location of every co-author.  The results showed that, when co-authors were located close together, their papers tended to be of the highest quality (as measured by the number of subsequent citations).

"For whatever reason, electronic interactions are not (at least not yet) a substitute for the real world," writes Lehrer.  

"Our most important new ideas typically don’t arrive on a screen.  Rather, they emerge from idle conversation, from too many people sharing the same space."
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