Thursday, December 16, 2004
  No Phone Experiment
First off, sorry, not so many posts lately. I was away and then quite busy with some good stuff going on with our company! :)

I have a lot to catch up on. Ill start here and hopefully will get to more today.

I was in Tahoe over the weekend taking a little R & R and snowboarding happily throughout the blissful landscape and sunshine (ahhhh California skiing). While there, my friend and I accidentally ran a little experiment by accident. Neither of us took our phones with us for the whole day. While I have to admit it was a most peaceful experience, it also cause a series of mishaps which inevitably caused someone to leave early. Yup. One of our friends, who had driven up from LA, went to a different mountain and tried feverishly to try to contact us throughout the day to make plans, etc. But because he couldn't get a hold of us all day, he assumed something was strange and when we returned back to the cabin he was gone... back to LA!!! Had we just returned one of his calls or text messages he would have been there to enjoy the warm fire afterwards.

Hence, the next day we took our phones... and all communication was blissful, all plans were good, and all friends happy.

While this was a bit extreme it just follows up to my last post, in that no one knows what to do anymore when the phones aren't working or not around. This was the most extreme example that has probably ever happened to me. I mean, a 9 hour drive because of no phone!!! While, both of us with out phones, knew that we would just meet him at the cabin afterwards, something in side the him said "this is odd" and thought something otherwise. Crazy? Perhaps. A sign of the times? Definitely.

Mobile is more than just technology. It's a lifestyle. But it's even more than that... I've been trying to put my finger on some terminology that will describes the pattern of communication that mobile phones offer... it offers real-time communication, and semi-real-time, and asynchronous, but it offers it all... more on that later.



We all lived well in the pre-mobile (presence touching) days. It's just that we now have different expectations on reaching people and communicating that we can't know always if someone has willingly disconnected.

My wife regularly leaves her phone behind (on purpose and on accident). To her, the phone is for reaching others, not her. But, I try to tell her that people expect to reach her and therefore don't know what to do when they don't hear back from her or can't reach her.

I go by the philosophy, influenced by my wife, that is half-way between the always-answer and never-answer schools of thought. I tell people I will always get back to them - but in my time - so they know that if I don't answer, I have my reasons. I just get back to them later (10 minutes or 10 days, depending on urgency and if I can shoot off a quick note).

Indeed, the mobile connectedness is not too different from the email expectations of instant response. I think instead of everyone being forced into an instant response pattern with mobile or email communications, everyone should learn the other's patterns to improve the 'presence touching'.

If you had told your friend that you would be unreachable all day, or that if you don't respond in any fashion, that you probably didn't get the message, then the friend would have been a bit more optimistic and persisten in contacting you. But, you friend likely thought you were actively ignoring, and left. Alas.

Easier would be clearer presence indicators... but that's a story for another day.


I left my phone at home in Dec by accident (along with wallet & drivers' licence - a serious no-no here in SA now). I was going to meet up with friends at a Johnny Clegg concert at Kirstenbosch.

The thing was, my ticket was with someone in the very long queue, whom I didn't know, and my friends were at another entrance.

I felt utterly lost initially - what shall I do, what shall I do...Luckily I had some coins, and so could use the payphones.

But who to call? It's not only the fact you lose the means to communicate, but you also lose contact details. So I had another communication medium, but no ability to connect.

McLuhan spoke of "the medium is the message". What Mcluhan was trying to say was that because we are so immersed in varous media, we are oblivious to its effects and just consume its messages.

We are so preoccupied with the device (medium) we lose sight of it content eg. calendar entry, contact number. In this sense, because we only have to remember names and not numbers because of our digital contact lists, we are slaves to this new medium, the memory card or SIM. Not to the phone.

(I eventually resolved the meet-up problem by phoning my housemate, who used my phone to make the relevant calls, and got back to me.)

Enough rambling, great postings!
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Location: San Francisco, California, United States
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