Today I am going to spend some time on commentary about mobile technology and how we are slowly (alright, not that slowly) going through a sea-change. It has been said that computing is moving closer and closer to us. That it started out as mainframes, then as microcomputers, then desktops, then laptops, mobile devices, and now glasses/watches. Now we are starting to hear more about true wearable computers. And before too long, we will be implanting assisting devices in ourselves. It is inevitable, folks. People want to improve themselves, feel smarter, be smarter. They want to be more capable.
Overlaying it all is the fear of missing out (FOMO). This FOMO will push us ever faster into the future. The problem lies during this transition. Transitions are not easy. They are hard for the folks that are in between. I am one of those people in the middle. I am not my father, who still sends mail and likes phone calls and can not be bothered to learn how to text. Nor am I what some of have called digital natives. I am in the middle, using all of this not as a holistic whole, but bits and pieces of it as I see fit. While I think I understand the legal challenges faced by this space, I do not fully embrace it as part of my entire life. I dabble. And that is what makes it hard.
Living a mediated life?
Jon Evans in a TechCrunch article bemoans what these technologies are doing to us. I agree with him. Our devices are between us and the world around us. There are other intermediaries between us and our circle of friends/family. Those intermediaries are the platforms on which we interact with them. If you don’t think that Facebook and Google are in-between just go search on what is really private on those platforms.
Jon poses the thought that disruptive and innovative technology isn’t always an improvement over the status quo. Sometimes it does make things worse. If you were a farmer doing things by hand and by oxen, the introduction of the combine was a huge disruption. It may have put you out of work and caused you great pain. Your ancestors benefitted from it with increased free time and the ability to pursue other professions. But for you, it was huge.
He also shows us the promised land of this journey (at least the journey we are on now with our computing technology). The word he uses is seamless. Right now our technology is not seamless. I love being able to look up when “The Fall Guy” with Lee Majors first was on TV (11/4/1981 according to tv.com). I don’t even have to remember all the connections between Kevin Bacon and everyone else as the Oracle of Bacon does it for us. My Bacon number is 3 through a loose connection with Nana Visitor of DS9 fame. I love all this, but I fear that looking that up takes me out of the stream of human connection with the group I am with. Does it? Or does it make me more engaged with them?
What you should be looking for as you develop your presences and as you provide the legal advice on them is to get to that nirvana. It should be seamless. It should be there for the user when the user needs it without the user ever knowing they need it. It needs to be done with little ‘physical or cognitive distraction,’ as Jon puts it. If you can do that better than anyone else, the next wave will be yours. Can you do that?
Nostalgia puts us middlers in this transition state
I think that nostalgia, or perhaps a desire to live in a simpler time, makes this transition even harder for some of us. Rebecca Solnit in her 8/29 diary proposes that our technology is not expanding our communication with others, but contracting it. Over the last many thousands of years the speed of communication with others has increased. Before the advent of email and the internet, letters and the phone were our methods. It created personal contact and context between us. Texting, email and instant messaging is taking that away, she posits.
I actually agree with her to a certain extent. Being part of the middle I am biased. I am incapable of reading context in a text message. Even if the sender has provided context, I misread it all the time. How many times have you read an email and reacted in a way that surprised you? That you provided external context to something there that changed your perception of the sender. Are our digital natives able to find context in these mediums? They say they are, but the problem with lack of context is projection. In the absence of the context we project our internal struggles onto the external message. If I think I am not worthy or of worth, I may read that type of attack in any message I get that talks about my abilities. Even positive sounding messages get read with that filter. Humans are nothing but filters. The longer we live, the more numerous filters there are.
What about concentration? Are we able to concentrate on what we are doing fully anymore? Do I have a version of technology-triggered adult onset attention deficit disorder (TTAOADD, which you can pronounce ‘toad’)? Rebecca hits on something when she says that even reading books has become hard. Before I would have a book, read some pages, dog ear my progress (sorry book-a-philes) and come back to it later. I wasn’t able to interrupt my stream, switch over to a new book, and then switch back seamlessly. I had a Kindle before an iPad and thought I would switch my Kindle content to the iPad. What I found was I read even less than I had before? I had too many distractions. When the reading got a little hard, I would leave it to go play Angry Birds.
I Don’t Know, and I Don’t Have Any Idea
And here is where I say I don’t know about the future. I am open to it, and I want the promise that the future may bring. It will be very interesting to see how we combine the future with our humanity. I worry about the future changing our humanity, but will it be changing it, or just revealing it?
Perhaps these two articles can be combined into a holistic whole for us. Technology that doesn’t cognitively distract that provides us the space to concentrate on the thing at hand. Someone please solve that.