Understanding the impact of the mobile phone
Fascinating essay by Christine Rosen in The New Atlantis. Quote:
“Although [Irving] Goffman wrote in the era before cell phones, he might have judged their use as a ‘subordinate activity,’ a way to pass the time such as reading or doodling that could and should be set aside when the dominant activity resumes. Within social space, we are allowed to perform a range of these secondary activities, but they must not impose upon the social group as a whole or require so much attention that they remove us from the social situation altogether. The opposite appears to be true today. The group is expected never to impinge upon — indeed, it is expected to tacitly endorse by enduring — the individual’s right to withdraw from social space by whatever means he or she chooses: cell phones, BlackBerrys, iPods, DVDs screened on laptop computers. These devices are all used as a means to refuse to be ‘in’ the social space; they are technological cold shoulders that are worse than older forms of subordinate activity in that they impose visually and auditorily on others. Cell phones are not the only culprits here. A member of my family, traveling recently on the Amtrak train from New York, was shocked to realize that the man sitting in front of her was watching a pornographic movie on his laptop computer — a movie whose raunchy scenes were reflected in the train window and thus clearly visible to her. We have allowed what should be subordinate activities in social space to become dominant.”
This is a long piece but worth it — the most perceptive piece I’ve read on the way the mobile phone has changed behaviour.