Mobile devices and ever more prevalent technology mean the appearance of a screen in virtually every room in every house, as well as on the bus, the train and even the walk to work. Even at a rough count, i’ve got seven screens in the three rooms in my flat and innumerable devices with power adaptors, cabling and accusingly carbon heavy red ‘standby’ lights.
All of these screens act as windows to entertainment, education, communication and retail, but did i really plan to have them all? There’s a sense that technology is pervasive, incremental and beneficial, but often our uptake is not planned. Sure, a device that means i can access my emails in bed on a sunday morning is handy, but have i ever stopped to think if i want to read my emails in bed? The breakdown of work/leisure, formal and informal spaces and the increasing integration of technology into every aspect of our lives generates great benefits, but also the neurosis of being ‘disconnected’, the almost obsessional search for a ‘signal’ whilst trekking through Cornwall and the irrational fear of the flat battery.
I’ve always considered myself something of a rebel for getting rid of my microwave several years ago, for unspecified reasons, but based on a vague notion that it was superfluous to my happiness, but any lasting kudos i had from this decision evaporated as i struggled to integrate a PS3 and it’s three furlongs of cabling in between the xbox and DVD player this Christmas.
Susan Maushart, an Australian journalist, went to the extreme and pulled the plug on all the technology in her household, including that belonging to her three teenage children in her ‘experiment’ for six months. To nobodies surprise, she found that they bonded closer as a family and took up more reading and crafts (although not before her youngest, 14 year old, had given up and gone to live with her dad and his internet connection for a month!).
Maybe this is an extreme measure, but nonetheless, perhaps we should try to take a more holistic approach to technology, integrating it into our lives where we most want it, rather than fitting around it as it arrives.
Maushart, S (Jan 2011) ‘The winter of our disconnect: how three totally wired teenagers [and a mother who slept with her iPhone] pulled the plug on their technology and lived to tell the tale’. Jeremy P Tarcher (pub) ISBN-10 1585428558 (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Winter-Our-Disconnect-Teenagers-Technology/dp/1585428558)