A few weeks ago, my friends Mark and Sana got married in Oxford Town Hall. My sister Hannah and I were invited, but sadly couldn’t attend, on the grounds that we were over 5,000 miles and an ocean away. They’re both wonderful people, and I’ve known Sana in particular for a very long time, so this made me very sad indeed.
So, here’s what happened.
On Saturday morning, I woke up at 5am, brushed my hair and dressed up (from the waist up). Celia, who was able to attend the wedding in person, brought her MacBook Pro. And as friends and family gathered to watch the ceremony, she FaceTimed me.
In fact, it almost didn’t happen. Mark and Sana had checked with the venue beforehand, and it looked like they had wifi – but on the day, it wasn’t working. So Sven switched his HTC Desire into hotspot mode, and I attended the wedding via FaceTime over a 4G cellphone connection. Not a planned backup – he just happened to have a broadband connection in his pocket (as many of the guests probably did). Thank you Android; thank you Apple.
Let’s step back for a moment and think about what this might have required ten years ago. Two sets of ISDN lines, a webcam and specialist software? Some kind of satellite connection? Yet today, it was possible with commodity hardware. It didn’t even use much of Sven’s cellphone data allowance.
People talk about the Internet as being information at your fingertips, anywhere; I like to think of it as being a way to connect anyone to anyone in deeper and deeper ways. Here’s some footage from the wedding reception, a little later on, which I recorded using the screen capture software Screeny (that’s Mark playing drums):
Forget flying cars, or scaremongering tales of social networking making us more emotionally isolated: the future we’re living in is more human, more democratic and more personal than ever before. Sitting in Berkeley, getting choked up over a wedding 8 timezones away, I felt more grateful than ever before for all the ways that technology brings us together.