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Friday, February 17, 2006

Technology: Gadgets and Anti-social Behavior

I was at the mall last weekend and saw a scraggly-haired teen engrossed in his PSP, oblivious to the circle of friends standing around him. Last night I saw the adult version. Out at a bar, with his friends, some guy pulled out his ipod, announced that he had every episode of Lost downloaded, flicked on an episode and quickly became entranced by the little screen. So I took a picture of him (I want to be bucky turco); he's the guy on the far left.

I think I'd have a conniption if one of my friends lapsed into this private entertainment, but none of the others around seemed to care. Maybe this sheds some light on the question of whether personal devices will slowly shrivel our communities...nope, we'll still get together but now we won't have to talk.


nic said...

I'm not one to throw stones because I've actually read a book at a dull party...

Thought you might enjoy this link, courtesy of BoingBoing:

It's a segment from The Daily Show talking about trendspotting, social networks (mySpace) and how technology is bringing closer and further together.

AKI SYSTEMS 2600 said...

Good observation.

Note, too, how all of us do the CELL PHONE IMPORTANCE CHECK at bars and restaurants throughout the night's conversation. The room is constantly lit with cell screens checking for "important" personal social updates.

Cell phones are providing a security blanket, I think, in awkward social situations (a universal conundrum of the social "scene"). And the fake act of checking the phone (constantly) projects a sense of importance at the chic bar that equalizes the scene for the matter how cool all of you think you are - I got real shit to keep track of back in the office/parallel social group across town. Ever notice how the more chic the party, the more folks are checking their cell phones? You see celebs on the red carpet at Oscars on their phones and Sidekicks being "important". Please. Despite our evolution, we are all still awkward teens at the sock hop checking for who's watching.

For me, my Blackberry has replaced my time watch, note pad and numerous other gadgets. So i can admit to an occasional deliberate over-attendence to the Blackberry to feign aloof pre-occupation with the "scene".

While I hear the age-old "technology ruins human touch" rant, I think behaviours like this are just an improvised solution to the ageless issue of social awkwardness. EVERYBODY NEEDS THEIR HOOK TO CONVEY COOLNESS amidst the reviewing eyes. Beautiful fashionistas pretend to be too cool and aloof for the room by staring off and ignoring you and your conversation...this guy (and me) need to check our gadgets to show that we are not threatened by the social situation.

I dunno if tech gadgets invented the social isolations...50 years ago, this guy (and me) would have been doing something just as anti-social at the caberet (pretending to be writing a song, or overly-attending to our fancy cigarette case)

Smart tech brands should recognize these universal truths and program activities that help the user balance the social game.

Check out this little book by Ideo, which is a little photo document of what they term THOUGHLESS ACTS - those unconcious, mundane improvisations that reveal the subtle but crucial ways people behave in a world not always perfectly tailored to their needs (ie hanging a coat on a chair, putting coffee cups on the roof of a car, hooking an umbrella on your arm). This subtle observation technique inspires much of their "human-centered" industrial design solutions.

*I think i have a copy by my desk if u want to check it.

Jen said...

A little over a year ago, I was researching Gen Y and their relationship with technology, and one of my favorite little artifacts I gained from that particular expedition was a photo: I snapped a shot of two college guys walking across the quad after class. One with his iPod headphones in, one with his cell phone to his ear... yet they were also actively engaged in a conversation with each other.

Multi-tasking, technology/media saturation... whatever you want to call it. It's creeping into our world as you have all pointed out, but for that younger generation, it's not even something they'll notice. We are taken aback by the guy who whips out his iPod in a bar to watch Lost instead of engage in conversation. They would rather order a pizza online and text message 'til the cow comes home than have to deal with a real person half the time. For us, it's anti-social. For them... it's almost extra-social... they don't see the problem.

Well... there's a rant for you!

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