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WiFi Zombies, Wake Up!

Just when I was getting comfortable in my digital cocoon, some tech geek comes along with a master plan to get us to talk, to each other, face to face.

Sean Savage, who recently graduated with a Master’s degree from Berkeley’s School of Information Management and Systems, want’s to provide online “hot spots” for WiFi users that are unique to a particular WiFi cafe.

Upon connecting to the Internet, users will see a login window. They are then prompted to enter a profile to alert other cafe inhabitants of their presence. Savage’s new hook-up site, PlaceSite (not up yet) is expected to be up in San Francisco this October. For now, the service is free.

I think I understand how it works. People will go to WiFi coffee shops to log on, sign in, find “friends,” then turn off the computers and talk to them. Here is my amateur, non-authoritative, sociological assessment: people go to WiFi cafes to feel part of the human race and get free WiFi. They don’t necessarily want to talk to other humans. The smell of coffee and sounds of people talking in the background are comforting, but sometimes it’s not what we are there for.

Digital alienation, a new phrase in the lexicon, is something we all experience from time to time. The wireless revolution has put the whole world right in our hands (think Treo). We just need to remember that other people are in it.

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