Just when you thought that Clicks & Mortar finally, irreversibly was a topic from an overhyped past. Global clothing retailer C&A pilots an unexpected use of the Facebook Like in its Sao Paulo store. It equipped its garment hangers with displays that show the number of Likes each item has received on Facebook in real-time. Admittedly, the display looks a bit retro digital from a distance. Also, I am not so sure if women will be inspired to buy a particular item if many others have indicated that they also like the item: a low number of Likes might actually be a better recommendation. At least to certain women. I think.

But never mind that. This is not the Psychology Blog, although changing your Facebook relationship status (or other statuses) nowadays seems a crucial moment in life that must to be carefully timed.

Many of us cannot imagine living anymore without the dynamics of the social web, which is powered by the Internet and mobile devices. Still, we yet seem in full search for the optimal balance between social and technology. Mobile apps like TheFinds’ Glimpse could just as much – or even better – guide consumers selecting products based on the social network. And there are already plenty of apps (like Layar) that provide consumers with an Augmented Reality – which could easily include Facebook likes – through their mobile devices.

The question is however whether the latest mobile app really will help us to become more social, as shopping with a friend may become much less fun if she is continuously pointing her smartphone to items, finding out what Facebook thinks. Also, there is a good chance she will be less focused on the actual items for sale, occupied as she will be by handling the device and interpreting the information that pops up.

Of course, we are not even considering shopping anymore in Virtual Reality (anybody in SecondLife against this, any of the four?).  But Augmented Reality just might look a little bit different from what we currently think as well. More real, if you like.

The late Mark Weiser of Xerox PARC would be more relevant than ever with his vision of Real Virtuality: we should not be entering or caught up in the virtual world. Instead the virtual world should enter ours, not screaming for attention but as true calm technology: “that which informs but doesn’t demand our focus or attention”. Our next mobile device may just as well turn out to be a digital hanger, a pico projector, smart paper, glasses (the parodies are by now funnier than the original) or just an occasional, soft Internet Whisper in our ears.

Nothing more than appropriate that I participated in a new workshop concept the other day that was also coined Real Virtuality. Invented by our always creative colleagues of the Accelerated Solution Environment (ASE) it featured real Like, Follow and Retweet stickers that the participants could use during the furthermore tech-light session for – well – social purposes. There were even Dislike stickers (eat your heart out, Facebook!).

Unfortunately I cannot explain in detail to you how the Paper iPad worked, as we do occasionally tend to enjoy the fruit of our Intellectual Property just a little bit longer. It was anyway a great day with great clients at our chateau Les Fontaines, in the middle of the woods.

Guess Mark Weiser would have liked the place as well, given the final paragraph of his landmark paper about ubiquitous computing and calm technology: “There is more information available at our fingertips during a walk in the woods than in any computer system, yet people find a walk among trees relaxing and computers frustrating. Machines that fit the human environment instead of forcing humans to enter theirs will make using a computer as refreshing as taking a walk in the woods”.

Technology that calms us. Let’s make it Real.