On Time and Technology – Thinking Digital 2012
These are my (live) notes from Tom Chatfield’s (@TomChatfield) talk at Thinking Digital 2012. As Tom started to talk, my ears pricked up and I thought this would be interesting to many of you. The following are Tom’s thoughts (which I strongly agree with):
Technology is great at helping us spend time. It hasn’t done a good job of creating time. The limit of computing now isn’t the computing, it’s us. Paul Virilio (many years ago) said:
“Time is not something that can be measured with a pendule. Time is something that we build together within a tribe, a family, a region.”
Time and place have been drastically changed by technology. Radio enabled the live audience for an event to be larger outside the venue, than inside. That’s something that we take for granted now, but that was a tipping point in history – with the first live broadcast of a boxing match.
There is a similar tipping point happing with time today. Research by the Kaiser foundation looked at media usage for 8-18 year olds. In 1999 is was 6:21 hours, by 2009 it was 7:38 hours (10:45 including multitasked media exposure – e.g. mobile usable). Our daily default has gone from ‘not using media’ to media being consumed constantly. The “Quiet Carriage” in the train is a sign of the times – our default is plugged in, ‘unplugged’ is a ‘special’ case, an exception.
There are now two different ways to spend our time: Plugin in. Not plugged in. We are moving from ‘personal’ computing to ‘intimate’ computing. Devices like the iPad have almost become an extension of our bodies. That’s powerful, and it is also dangerous. It’s a temptation for us to stop thinking.
“Someone who accepts every technology is not being technophilic, because this doesn’t require any reflection or choice.” Cory Doctorow
People comment on the quite time of plane journeys. You can create your own ‘plane’ journeys by using the airplane mode of your phone. creating moments of (off-line) focus for thinking. Media off.
When using a new technology, ask what it wants of you. What is it demanding? What do you need to push back on? Technology, Tom says (and I agree) is not neutral.The great phrase of our time “Computer says no” is the great battle cry. Sometimes we have to say no. Computing is part of the texture of our living, but it shouldn’t determine the texture of our life. We need strategies to structure and control our use of technology.