Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Downtime Effect

The Downtime Effect on Human Restlessness. Photo Credit: The Human Network by thespacesuitcatalyst
Yesterday my network traffic started becoming sluggish until it ground to a halt around 3pm. I thought that it was the perfect time to get a drink of water. On my way I noticed that other people were just about ready to wander around to grab something like coffee or tea. It was also a bit noisier with some laughter here and there, due to a lot more conversations and heckling. And there were more people in the hallways than usual.
This is the surge in external 'traffic' caused by internet outage or network downtime. Lines at the coffee-maker are longer, more people are visiting the vending machines, there's a bigger chance that the restrooms are occupied, the cafeteria is a little more packed as is the case with the elevators, phone lines more busy, and there are more human interactions, more conversations, more human restlessness. It's as if the traffic jam on the internet rippled out onto the physical world, even out into the mental spaces, and out into the soundspace.
Whether the network outage is local to a company's firewall or to a huge trunk of the internet backbone affecting a city or continent, the pattern is that wherever and whenever the internet network fails on a given area, there will be a surge in traffic on other non-internet spaces or services within the first hour from the moment of the downtime. It's a web-mediated outward ripple of the clog from the virtual to the real world. Or the flow of traffic jam from the digital to the mental. It's a classic cause-and-effect for the twenty-first century.
Those symptoms and descriptions require a simple phrase, so in the spirit of the "Butterfly Effect" effect, I hereby christen The Downtime Effect (DE) as a new addition to humanity's growing list of jargon.
So the next time you discover that the network is down in your office or local area, you might want to forgo your instinct to go out for a cup of coffee to your nearest Starbucks if you don't like waiting in line. On the other hand if you're single, then it may actually be the perfect moment to meet your soul-mate, who's also wandering around without a sense of purpose (due to the temporary loss of the ability to surf) and perfectly vulnerable for a little romance. Once you spot your victim, better hurry to make contact for you only got an hour before the DE wears off.
And whatever you do, never utter this line during the conversation, "...ever heard of the Downtime Effect?" 'cause then it would probably have ended.

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