Neither Here, Nor There

I believe I was overly optimistic when I wrote about the third space as the place inhabited by two telephone conversants. They are, indeed, neither here nor there; but wherever they are they are not together.

Consider the text messager. I walked behind one on the way up from the subway this morning. She was certainly not on the stairs with me. She was in her phone, the shadow of her self plodded up the stairs, a remainder of flesh in the mundane world.

Was she with the recipient of the text message? Doubtless, in her mind’s eye, she was. She might have been seeing that person’s face. She might have been hearing their voice. But where were they? When a telephone conversation is taking place, both parties are imagining one another simultaneously, so the argument for a shared space is stronger. But a text message conversation suffers a substantial delay. The text messager I followed might have been conversing with someone who was engaged in a telephone conversation, and who wouldn’t be able to read the missive, much less answer for a few hours…!

This consideration has forced me to reconsider my shared space model. It isn’t enough to imagine the conversant, even in real time. You are still not with them. You are alone with the machine. The third space is a space created by technology. It is a dive into the interface, be it a keyboard and screen of a microphone and earbud.

One might argue that this lack of presence occurs even in a face-to-face conversation, however in that case any loss of sensory awareness is made up for in the gain of a second sensor, the second conversant. The third space inhabits a technological medium, which is not the sensed air or seen light. The third space is inside the machine.

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