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What is the nature of grieving in the Internet age?

Seeing how his daughter used Instagram to grieve her dying hamster helped Tom Klinkowstein understand how we can use the unintended consequences of technology.

My then 10-year old daughter awoke one morning before school recently to find her beloved pet hamster, Pom Pom, very ill and apparently near death. It was early on a school day and she usually took 15 minutes over warm chocolate milk to wake up. But that morning, she went right to the hamster cage, began to cry, comforted Pom Pom by cradling him in one hand, and then just as instinctively, documented herself, the ailing Pom Pom, and the entire scene with her iPhone, posting the unfolding encounter of her first brush with mortality to Instagram before I even noticed.

Within minutes, followers were grieving with her, consoling her.

She progressed through the grieving process onto healing within minutes, drank her chocolate milk, got dressed, finished her homework and went happily off to school.

What does the story of the dying hamster tell us?
Marshal McLuhan, the Canadian media pundit said that all new technologies re- scale the relative importance of our human capabilities (senses, bodies, minds) and the speed at which they function, leading to radically changed behavior.

In the example of my daughter and her hamster, Instagram, originally conceived as an electronic photo album, brought her together with friends at a here-to-fore unknown speed, creating an impromptu tribe of mutual empathy and responsibility, collapsing into minutes the grieving and healing process.

By carefully observing the effects of technology, it is possible to identify its un- promoted and unintended consequences.

Exercise
From my insights I tried creating a workshop that helps you discover new business opportunities by exploring unintended consequences of new technology.

You can find the “Unintended Consequences” tool in the Hyper Island toolbox.

I hope you enjoy it!

Text and tool by Tom Klinkowstein.

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