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Borderless Networks: Experience Required

In a recent blog, I talked about how recording artists are using the network to create new ways of nurturing customer (or fan) relationships while also building a great marketing base. But as we increasingly move into a world of borderless networks, where traditional, limiting boundaries fall away, we’re seeing a new cultural playground. One that allows us, as users, to connect with what enriches our lives. And that, too, is a powerful force in building relationships and community on the network.

As the explosion of mobile devices continues, and new forms of social media and tools emerge, we are entering an exciting new phase. Because when you start putting these together, along with innovative functionality in the routers and switches that bring those things to life, we have the opportunity to experience things that might have been out of reach in the past.

For instance, I’ve been hearing about a not-yet-famous band that I should check out. The problem: They never play anywhere close to where I live. Sure, I could listen to their CDs or watch clips on YouTube, but I’m told that it’s the band’s energy and the way they interact on stage that really sets them apart. Thanks to an East Coast venue’s decision to stream an entire concert, I finally got to see them perform, live from across the country, while I was nestled in my home in California. The band members interacted among themselves and with their audience—remote and local; meanwhile, fans who were attending virtually were providing running commentary on their favorite parts of the evening in the chat window. It was a great experience that I wouldn’t have otherwise been exposed to.

Here’s another example: This past week, GigaOm reported that New York Road Runners and Map My RUN are teaming up to provide what they’re calling an ‘enhanced spectator experience’ for the 2011 New York City Marathon. The idea is that by integrating data from RFID and GPS sensors, they’ll be able to serve up real-time status of runners throughout the 26.2 mile course. The information will be available through SMS, email and social media and push notifications as runners pass mile markers. I find this incredibly compelling—runners are able to garner support in new ways to get them through the mental challenge of a marathon. All while their supporters are able to experience the race with them, as if they were right there alongside the racers.

For these examples to really translate into experiences, it requires bandwidth and the right supporting technology to ensure that you really do feel like you are there. Otherwise, it’s not an experience, it’s simply looking on from the outside. Not nearly as satisfying.

The New York Times website recently ran a great story by a reporter who decided to turn a visit to a ball game at Yankee Stadium into an outdoor musical piece. I loved it for this one reason: the sounds captured in this art form allowed me to experience the game from his perspective. If I had merely read about this in the newspaper, I’m certain I would not have been pulled in.

The network’s evolution continues to fascinate. But more importantly, it challenges those of us in the IT world to think bigger and more boldly—about how we can harness the power of each new innovation into something that translates into an affecting experience. Because in the end, that’s also good for business.

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