Full-Time Intimate Community


I first read the term “Full-Time Intimate Community” on Joi Ito’s post about Radar. Joi describes FTIC as “the close group of friends … with whom you share presence. Most mobile youths know whether members of their FTIC are awake, at school, happy, sick, finished with their homework, etc. They use their mobile phones to keep in touch with their FTIC usually sending state changes by text message.”

I understood instantly what the term meant. I don’t use my mobile phone to alert my peers to state change; instead I change my IRC nick (or connect to IRC from my Treo), or set my instant messenger’s Away message. My kids don’t (yet) text their peers, but they do effectively communicate state change to one another. They play Runescape or Club Penguin with their friends, and know full well what’s going on with one another through most of their game sessions. I can only imagine how much texting my kids will do when they are permitted to do so…

Last night dad and I went to a Columbus Blue Jackets hockey game. Two teenage girls sat in the row in front of us, and spent the bulk of the evening sending text messages to their friends (and damn is it hard to discreetly read cellphone text messages over someone’s shoulder!). I was equally amazed at the hockey playing skill as I was the skill used to quickly navigate the cell phone interface: one girl would snap a picture with her phonecam, and then in a blur append some text and send it on to four or five of her contacts.

(My ability to watch both the game and the texting perfectly highlights another term I first read on Joi Ito’s site: continuous partial attention. I’ve been increasingly aware in the last several months just how my attention ebbs and flows around a variety of focal points at any given time. It’s increasingly rare that I dedicate my entire concentration to any particular task for very long.)

As I think through the implications of FTIC, I realize there are various strata to both the communities in which we participate, and the ways in which we communicate state change. For example, I don’t post here too often – usually only when I feel I have something interesting to say. Most of my “real life” (read: offline) close friends aren’t aware of much of what’s going on day-to-day with me unless I post about it, or email them; but my peers in IRC know almost instantly things that are happening at work or at home. Carina on the other hand, updates her blog quite frequently, and often with what I consider to be trivial or inconsequential items. I realize now that she’s communicating state change to her friends, most of whom keep in touch through LiveJournal friends lists.

I don’t have any meaningful conclusions to share at this time. I found the notion of FTIC interesting, particularly as I evaluated my own communities and how I interact with them. How do you communicate state change to your communities?

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