Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Ubiquitous Cell Phone: The Good and Not So Good

The crowd group texting
Today, after radiation treatment, I went to the gym to do my normal routine much to the delight of my oncologist, and possibly for my own wellbeing as well. As I was about an hour later than usual for some reason I noticed that the crowd was generally in their 20's-30's and that cell phones were just about in everyones hands. I was robbed once in a gym and take nothing of value ... let alone my iPhone.

Phone used for music 
It struck me as a bit odd and annoying. In between their very short sets, they were so busy texting they had no idea that someone may have wanted to use the machine they were merrily texting on. As a culture, we have become completely addicted to our cell phones. I think that in about 20 or so years, doctors of the neck and spine and chiropractors will have jobs for the rest of their lives from necks ruined by citizens literally bent over phones.

Many patrons of gyms bring their own music even though the gym plays music often at near ear numbing loudness. Unless their headphones are better than anything I have ever used, it must be annoying to listen to two sets of music. As I observed that after lifting their weights, like the man on the right, they then take a looooong rest between sets and text away or even stopping to see what the alert brought them.

Tests have shown the dangers of phone use, especially texting. It is said that the death rate texting while driving is about the same as drinking and driving. We just can't seem to get away from them. They take up just about every free minute and some that aren't so free. More and more places are forbidding phones because they are annoying especially when you have to hear another's talking.
Just because you are riding a bike you are a risk

Why is the cell phone so dangerous? First of all, you are trying to picture in mind's eye the person you are texting or talking too. Your mind struggles to see nuances that are not visible. We become so intent that we literally have no idea of our surroundings. I remember getting rear ended once. The cops finally made the woman turn off her phone ... she was still talking. I think she was so busy chatting that she didn't see we were all stopped. When you are on the phone you do not see a thing. I can hear already, "I can multi-task." Studies have shown that we delude ourselves if we think that is true. You can do a variety of things but NOT in the same instant of time. You go from task to task and think you are multi-tasking because you don't stop. Ever been to a restaurant and seen a group of four at a table? Usually all four are busy with their phones ignoring that fact that living breathing people are right in front of them. I have even heard where they text each other ... mere inches away! We have become a society that wants contact just not with real people.

Sending a picture to Grandma
The cell phone or "smart" phone with dumb users has also become the camera of choice. It can be used for family shots as this wonderful mother and child photo shows. Its a fast way to keep family members in touch or upload instantly to Instagram or Facebook. Sometimes the uploaded pictures that seemed so clever at the time will turn out to be, ugh, unfortunate down the road. It is quite common now for employers to ask for an applicants Facebook name and they then peruse their postings. Those drunk photos at the last party do not make many selling points.

Hey, look at me!
And as we learned in the Wiener episode in New York, "selfies" are also quite popular. There are many guys at the gym, which are lined with mirrors, taking photos of themselves to post or impress someone. My gym has it posted that cameras are not allowed. I wonder if anyone has considered the cell phone. They now have cameras as good as most point and shoots and in some cases better with the advantage of getting that photo uploaded in seconds!

Even in its archaic state the first photos taken of the passenger plane making an emergency landing in the Hudson River were taken by an early iPhone. It was posted in minutes and made it to most newspapers front page. The photographer won awards for it.

Selfie's begat selfie sticks that after ruining several valuable pieces of art are now banned in most museums. Who wants a hole in a $100 million Van Gogh? Who will pay for its restoration? It became a problem that no museum wanted to deal with. The obvious choice? Ban them.

Cell phones are amazing video cameras as well. We see acts by the police recorded. The new iPhone has movie camera recording ability even with stabilizing for sharp, non jittery images. Recently a young movie director made an entire movie, and won awards for it, using his iPhone 6 Plus. Its been known for awhile now that making a digital film is much cheaper. However, the cost to equip every movie house in the country with digital projectors would cost billions. Consumers though have taken matters into their own hands and bought huge TV sets with stunning resolution and wait for the DVD, often with better sound and clarity. Your phone might be able to record baby's first steps and be seen in all its glory, maybe even bigger than real life, on your TV or Facebook, in seconds.

I can remember walking in to MacWorld as Steve Jobs was finishing his keynote speech for the first iPhone. What we saw was nothing like what people thought it would be. What is was supposed to do, well, most of the attendees, Mac Heads for sure, thought there was a bit too much cannabis being smoked over at Apple. I had Motorola's RAZR, the most advanced phone at the time and it was miserable to use. If I wanted to do or change something I would look for a 16 year old and have them do what I wanted. When I got my first iPhone its ease of use was stunning. I could do in a few short taps what all other phones could never do.

However I don't think anyone dreamed what they would become. David Pogue spoke the next day at O'Reilly's books saying the iPhone would be the definitive device of the 21st Century. Turns out he was right.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please check out some of the earlier postings. They all cover in one way or another how design affects our daily lives.

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