Skype’s role as a presencing system


I heard recently that Skype can shorten a hard drive’s life span:

A more serious drawback lies in Skype’s software. By accessing the hard drive multiple times per minute, the program prevents it from entering sleep or idle modes. If users do not carefully close Skype after each time they use it, the resulting heat can lead to shortened hard drive lifespan. It is not known if other VoIP applications such as Jajah also have this problem. The solution? Remember to close the Skype application after use and turn off its “open on startup” option.”

One of Skype’s unacknowledged features, though, is as a presencing system. That is, Skype, like other IM and chat tools, can show who else is online. It’s interesting for a phone application/technology (VOIP in this case) to show presence. We’re used to calling one another to find out whether a person’s available, after all. The fact that we have to call is our protection from constant interruption, and it’s been a critical feature of the phone. Otherwise, people have to spend too much time and effort (including psychological awareness) managing and negotiation their presence availability. Being online and visible to one person, but not to another. Being visible to one but not available, invisible to another, and available anytime to yet somebody else.
Presence is not presence availability, and the visibility of one’s presence online doesn’t indicate availability. Availbility, however, depends on relationship, context, and other situtational and contingent factors. Which is why the lack of relational granularity on Skype is inadequate.
The response taken by many is to quit Skype (close the application). The above information may only convince more people not to leave Skype on all the time. If enough people do this, the application’s presencing function diminishes. Do we call/chat with people when they’re not online? No. Might these kinds of applications be in danger of hitting a social and interpersonal threshold? The price of availability is high, and technology functions aren’t equivalent to the social functions they support.

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