As of December 2012, 87% of American adults have a cell phone, and 45% have a smartphone. As of January 2013, 26% of American adults own an e-book reader, and 31% own a tablet computer. (more)
I dislike the term gadget, and prefer gear. Gear is stuff you need to accomplish things. Gadgets are fussy little gizmos that promise more than they provide.
It’s been a period of changes, and I am contemplating a few large ones.
A Three-Part Mind: GigaOM Research, stoweboyd.com and underpaidgenius.com
I stepped into the role of lead researcher (‘curator’) for GigaOM Research’s Social focus area back in early December, and as a result, I’ve been capturing a great deal of my thnking about social business, social tools in the business setting, and the future of work, over there. And there is a lot going on in that sector. [Note that GigaOM Pro has been renamed GigaOM Research, although the subdomain is still pro.gigaom.com.]
Probably because of that reorientation more of the writing that used to find its way to underpaidgenius.com is winding up here, on stoweboyd.com. There are a few reasons, but the most critical factor is this: I don’t think I can effectively and meaningfully discuss the impacts of technology on business, media, and society without including a great deal from other disciplines, especially cognitive science and psychology, economics, and even politics. By politics I don’t mean handicapping who will be voted in as dogcatcher, but I do mean the political issues that shape the contours of our increasingly webified world culture. This means more of my mutterings here will have a strong element of social criticism. So be it. I will be more gonzo here, from now on: there will be more of what I believe, here, and not just what I am observing.
One side effect is that underpaidgenius become a place to see what I am cooking, eating, watching, reading, and listening to, along with handicapping the dogcatcher election. However, everything else is now fair game for stoweboyd.com, so brace yourself.
[I am also writing at beaconstreets.com, but that is local activism for a more walkable Beacon NY, where I live. Nothing much is going to change there.]
A New Generation Of Gear
I am reaching the end of a gear generation. I currently write almost exclusively on a 2011-era 10” MacBook Air. It has been the best laptop I’ve had, following on in the tradition of four or five other macbooks that preceded it. I have an iPhone 4S, which is a good smartphone. I had a first generation iPad until recently, but found it really difficult to integrate into my world: it was not a good writing solution, was roughly the size and weight of my Air, and lacked a good keyboard. I had to lug around a bluetooth keyboard if I was traveling with it, and that made it less appealing than the Air. Lastly, I have a 2006 Apple Cinema display on my desk, and the Air can drive the monitor well, with great resolution. However, the monitor is so old that iTunes’s HDCP-encoded movies won’t play on it.
Recently, I had a discussion with Per Håkansson about his set up, and I am tempted to experiment with something similar to his, which is fairly radical.
I don’t like phone calls. I mean, I am perfectly happy to have a synchronous audio-only conversation with someone if we’ve arranged to do so. But otherwise, I’d rather not. If you’re a pal, and it’s urgent, text me or tweet me. If necessary, I’ll call you back, but If it’s not urgent, use text, email, or twitter.
The iPhone is a convenient form factor since it’s small enough to put in my pocket, but it’s too small for almost everything, like writing, or reading anything more sophisticated than an email or a Kindlized text-only book. It’s ok for maps, I grant you.
So, I am contemplating eliminating my cell phone and Air, and transitioning to two devices:
(I say ‘proximal’, because these are not primarily mobile devices: they are the devices we keep on our person. They are always with us, even in the home or office.) The Mini will be fully loaded, with wifi and cellular, and I plan to switch to using Google Voice as my only ‘phone number’.
I already use Google Voice as my voice mail, and as a way to make calls when I am sitting at my desk. The only oddball case will be walking down the street with my Mini in my jacket pocket or in my backpack when the ‘phone’ rings. I guess I will have to get used to keeping my Mini earphones plugged in. That’s the part we’ll have to see about. I can easily see myself walking along, texting on the Mini.
The biggest difference in this set up is that I won’t be walking around with two devices — iPhone and Air — when I leave my office for any length of time. I will just have the Mini. No adapter to connect the phone to the Air. No tethering the iPhone to provide data connection for the Air. Today, I am stuck with schlepping two devices whenever I travel.
One interesting wrinkle is that I will be able to use the same Logitech keyboard for both the Mini and the iMac, which would make going back and forth easier. And of course, with Dropbox, all my files are available on both devices, although I don’t keep much in my files except photos, and things to read, watch, or listen to.
So: I plan to buy the Mini early next week and move the iMac back to my office around the same time. I will keep the iPhone and the Air for a few months, just to see if it all works.
There is something almost seismic about making such a huge shift.
I’ve been motivated in part by the team at Hyper Island. I sat in on a master class led by the Hyper Island folks in NYC this week, and several (all?) of the teaching team used Minis when presenting, and the form factor looks perfect for that. Very liberating to walk around with the Mini in one hand, and not bound to a laptop on a lectern. That’s where I met Per, and learned about his similar gear switch.
I also think the Mini will be the perfect reading device, and not just for kindlized book, but anything.
I am certain I will have to invest effort into approximating the Chrome plugins I use on my Mac everyday — Asana, Buffer, and so on — but I am already certain that bookmarklets work as expected on the Mini.
One interesting side effect of this is that I would retire my Northern VA cell phone number, after two years in NY.
And this does not mean I am planning to wear an iWatch if one appears.
It will be a grand experiment. Wish me luck.
PJ Rey via Cyborgology
Being a cyborg is risky business; we must depend on the expertise of others to ensure that our equipment is fit for use. This radical dependency on expert systems—and the societies that create them—makes cyborgs fundamentally social beings. In fact, it is through dependency on technology, and the subsequent loss of self-sufficiency, that we express our commitment to society. Technology has always been part and parcel to the division of labor. Think bows and shovels. In this sense, being a cyborg requires not only trust in technology producers, but trust in other technology users. There is no such thing as a lone cyborg. The birth of cyborg marks the death of the atomistic individual (if such a thing every existed). Donna Haraway rightly contrasts the cyborg to Romantic Goddesses channeled in small lakeside cabins. Cyborgs are cosmopolitan.
This is not to say that Modern day cyborgs are incapable of being critical of technology or expert systems. On the contrary, the cyborg’s humility in admitting her own dependencies leads her to acknowledge the importance of struggling to enforce certain values within techno-social systems, rather than plotting a Utopian escape (the sort that had currency with Thoreau and other Romantics and that continues to be idealized by cyber-libertarians who view the Internet as a fresh start for society). My favorite Haraway quote explains:
This is not some kind of blissed-out technobunny joy in information. It is a statement that we had better get it – this is a worlding operation. Never the only worlding operation going on, but one that we had better inhabit as more than a victim. We had better get it that domination is not the only thing going on here. We had better get it that this is a zone where we had better be the movers and the shakers, or we will be just victims.
Cyborgs always see the social in the technological; the “technology is neutral” trope is a laugh line.
Holiday Inn has been testing technology that will allow guests to use their phones in lieu of room keys, bypassing the front desk. After a customer makes a reservation, a text message is sent with a room number and a phone number to call upon arrival; once this call is made, the system validates the guest’s phone number and responds with a tone that unlocks the door. More tests are planned for later this year.
Yes, I’d like that.
I wonder when I last turned on a TV in a hotel room?
But I would like good speakers, with an audio jack for iPhone, iPad or MacBook. And maybe a good monitor, to watch a movie. But I can handle my own Netflix or iTunes.