Week 93

The first impressions of a somewhat late adopter of the smartphone, and thoughts on the importance of testing things for yourself.

A thought on judgment vs experience

As I’m writing this Week Note, I’m racing through the fields somewhere between Warsaw and Konin, on the train back to Berlin. I’m also typing on a phone. This is a novelty for me: I inherited Igor’s Android phone a couple weeks ago, after he finally caved and switched to the iPhone (incidentally also a hand-me-down, from Johannes). This is my first experience using a smartphone for more than a minute at a time. I felt somewhat traitorous for deserting my dumbphone, a rather ordinary clamshell Nokia from about 2007, but after a couple weeks of holding a small brain in my hands every time I feel like getting in touch with someone or taking note of something, I’m very impressed with the selection of tools available to me. I have, however, compromised and have not gotten a data plan, so my internet usage is restricted to WiFi. We’ll see how long that lasts. Even so, I feel like I’m understanding that little bit more of the culture I’m working in.

It feels like something of a turning point, getting to know the medium through which the general consensus says is The Future. I’ve been hearing and reading things about “mobile” for a few years now, and yet never really digested any of it, since it didn’t apply to me. I didn’t really want to venture into this unfamiliar mobile realm because I dreaded the added responsibility that would come with more awareness of what was happening from minute to minute among my friends, or at work, or in the news. I didn’t want to be informed of everything, nor did I want to turn into someone who checks her phone constantly. But since I hadn’t tried it, I didn’t realize that it was also uncomplicated to scale down or up my level of informedness, and that I would still be perfectly aware that not every piece of information I receive requires an immediate reaction.

The strongest impacts of an emergent technology are always unanticipated. You can’t know what people are going to do until they get their hands on it and start using it on a daily basis, using it to make a buck and u­sing it for criminal purposes and all the different things that people do.
– William Gibson1

As workers in the digital sphere, we have a responsibility to try out the technologies we talk about. No amount of research on a given technology can stack up to being a user and trying it out for yourself, experiencing its genius, its annoyances or its idiosyncracies. We should try to keep questioning our position on certain technologies, and periodically reassess our biases.

  1. Mentioned in a presentation by Sami Niemelä at the BMW Guggenheim Lab in Berlin on July 16th.