Posted by: Jenn Deering Davis | January 30, 2008

always on or always available?

One of the main goals of my dissertation is operationalizing this idea of “always on.” But something I’ve been wrestling with this week is the difference between being always on and being always available. I’m still working this out, but I’m starting to wonder if what I’m actually interested in being always available.

Being always on implies action, behavior. A person who is always on is constantly engaged, always doing something or talking to someone.

Being always available suggests something more akin to a state of preparedness. It’s being ready for interaction, but not necessarily always engaged in interaction.

Theoretically, I think there are a few key differences suggested by these two terms. There’s a difference between degrees of participation; always on is active participation, but always available is more passive. There’s also a difference between communication direction and control; always on implies individual as sender and seeker, always available implies individual as receiver.

Then again, the popular use of the term “always on” suggests that a person is constantly connected to the world via the internet and any number of ICTs, even if that person is not actively using those connections. The fact that I can check my email and get directions on my cell phone whenever and wherever I want means I’m always on. Or does it?

Looks like I’ve got some thinking to do.

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