Cellphones & Moblogging: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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The Good

…Knowing that my daughter, off to Barnard College a few weeks ago, has her cell in the city. Every kid from rural Vermont should have one in NY, yes?

…Planning some moblogging adventures for my Arts writing class, ideas about which I posted here, and which promise to give us more opportunites to explore hypermedia along the lines of Jon Udell’s concept of the genre.

…Phone cam art as seen on BBC

…The way people are beginning to use Flickr

…What Dave Winer is doing with his cell and iPOD.

Eric Paulos and Elizabeth Goodman’s Familiar Strangers Project

The Bad
…The inability of school districts to distinguish between the educational potential of cell phones, listed above under Good and proposed in Korea (as pointed out byBryan Alexander), and the abuse of the phone during classtime as our local Burlington FreePress noted in today’s editorial. (Do we need to ban cellphones outright? Can’t we teach our students–and, apparently, teachers– a little etiquette? I thought we were trying to foster critical thinking skills and the ability to exercise sound judgement. What kind of message are we sending if we say that ALL uses of a particular technology, that is not inherently harmful–the way firearms are, for example– are banned?)

The Ugly (A Personal Account)

…Flying back from Milwaukee this past weekend:
The plane lands, and as it taxis up to the gate, voices pop like corks being released about the cabin: “Hello?” “Hey” “Hi. Yeah it’s me…” “Honey? I’m here!” where just the minute before, the only sound was the insistent roar of the engines. Of the fifty-some people aboard the small jet, it seems as though a good twenty of them have flipped open their cellphones the second the wheels touch earth.

Meanwhile they have yet to utter a word to the people sitting next to them–strangers–and as they chatter on to loved ones, colleagues and friends, it’s as though they’ve encased themselves in a protective bubble, as though no one sits in the seat next to them. They chatter on — loudly–about whatever: the weather, the landing, the trip, private matters, business as though they were alone.

Do they do it to sheath themselves within a safe cocoon of the familiar when they’re on the road?

…On a class fieldtrip:
I am at the wheel; four sleepy college students are draped over the seats. A phone rings in the back, and a student starts talking to her mother. Another student pulls her phone from a pocket and dials, starts talking with her boyfriend; the girl in the front seat falls asleep. The four in the car have barely exchanged words.
Do they not want to speak to one another?

…At the top of the Statue of Liberty, a woman is speaking–yes, loudly–into a cellphone to someone in California: “Yes, I’m here, at the top, I made it, can you believe it?!” and she has her back to the view.

…On an escalator in the airport, I am traveling down, and a young man alone on the up-side is talking–loudly–to himself. But no, he has on a headset, and is carrying on a conversation about business, right here, out into the air as he looks right at me.

Yeah, I can’t stand it when I’m talking with someone and their cellphone starts chirping and they dive for the phone. Yeah it concerns me that perhaps we’re using the cellphone to isolate ourselves within our safe worlds. But you know, I think these tensions between ways of using technology and what our use of technology means to us and does to us are quite fascinating and useful. We’re just working it all out, and it will be a bumpy ride for sure, but that’s as it should be. When we’re experiencing moments of disequilibrium and uncertainty, that’s just when we have a chance to see things, really see them in a way that stirs our imagination out of its paralysis, yes?

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