With Gary Mersham as the driving force and my AUT colleague Petra Theunissen, I recently authored my third book, Public relations and communication management: an Aotearoa/New Zealand perspective (2009).

My first book was written with Jim Macnamara who has just published his 12th book, The 21st century media (r)evolution (2010).

On paper, both books comment on social media.  In Jim’s case, he writes about changes wrought by electronic media, from “Web 3.0, the semantic web” to wireless-connected location-aware notebooks and GPS-equipped phones/computers.  

Our words are on paper, but our thoughts are on satellites.

Global Positioning Systems (via satellites) mean that people can decide if they want to be found through applications in the Web “cloud”, such as foursquare or Comob Net and Comob.  Foursquare is a location-based social networking website, and Comob offers a collaborative GPS mapping ap. which you can download onto your iPhone or Nokia.  

Comob began as a digital arts project to explore social relationships.  Foursquare is more blatantly commercial.  It allows you to check-in to places, meet up with friends and discover new places, many of which are retail social venues like bars and restaurants, which register on the site.

Does this mean that we will be forced to give up our privacy, or will it remain under our control?

Well, research suggests that it’s not just social life, but work-life that creates concerns about where you are and what you are doing.  For instance, in Fortune Magazine (June 14) Beth Kowitt reports that a study done for Microsoft earlier this year found 7% of employees felt that their co-workers were not supportive (up from 1% in 2008); and 16% of bosses were seen as not supportive (also up from 1% two years earlier): so “Face time ain’t dead yet”.

Maybe we will be more supportive if remote workers carry their GPS devices around like a home-detention bracelet.  That way, bosses and co-workers could be confident they are in their home office and not at the beach or in a café.  (It might even confirm the stat. in the same article that 9% surveyed said they worked in the loo.)

Could location sensitive software could be the new dot.com bubble, ask investors.  Well, Foursquare is just one of the new start-up companies reported same issue of Fortune under the headline “Web 2.0: the party’s over” (p. 14).  In that article, Jessi Hempel notes Facebook’s $US1.4 billion revenue this year makes its IPO (due 2012?) “…one of the most anticipated since Google’s”.

But the same article notes: AOL’s plans to sell or shutdown Bebo and Rupert Murdoch’s rueful comment about his Myspace purchase that “We made some big mistakes”.  Google is still bullish about Youtube, but “analysts predict that significant profits are still years away” (p.14).

So, where is all this heading?

One answer is provided by Nicholas Carr in his book, The shallows: what the internet is doing to our brains.  Carr suggests that web multitasking and “power browsing” are turning our neural pathways into drains full of trivia.  One interesting stat. is that most web pages are viewed for 10 seconds or less; and fewer than one in 10 page views last more than 2 minutes.  

Imagine what that does to our attention spans….

What was that?