Who’s in control?

As I was sipping my morning coffee, Rebecca came into my office to chat about ideas on mobile pedagogy and how our peers should embrace this technology.  The conversation drifted to an analogy I called “surfing the wave.” Digital natives tend to ride the wave of current technology trends, skimming the surface with little to no desire of diving into the immense depth attributed by such advancements in social engineering. Those who feel overwhelmed are individuals that are firmly rooted with a strong desire to understand the social fabric of the oncoming wave.  Which leads to the question of who is in charge? Is it the natives that can absorb technological change with transferable knowledge or the generation with a deeper expression of the human experience?  The reality is that neither are in charge, we have given that control to the devices of admiration.  It is time to get that back.

I spoke earlier on the idea that we must create a job description of what we want from a technological solution, however judging from the constant reminders from all forms of media the technologies we must buy, somewhere we lost the ability to understand the impact of such purchases. We live in a time where the variety of choices are overwhelming. It is obvious that we have relented as people no longer look up to greet your eyes as they hunch over a small plastic device that promised them transparency to their world (as I peck out this post on my iPad).

What we need is to audit our workflow. What tedious task can be replaced with a technological marvel? Or better yet, should technology replace it (the inner Luddite screams).  It is a simple enough question yet I do not think many ask such things before making a purchase that amounts to mostly potential.  We rather compare features of devices against each other than why we need to purchase it in the first place.  The process is simple and we are quite effective of applying such logic elsewhere.  Take for example purchasing a television.  The features on some of these screens seems to grow almost on a monthly basis yet we do not stand in long lines when a new version is about to be released to the public.  Why not?  Is it because of cost? Some mobile device coveted cost just as much.  Is it the utilitarian nature of the machine?  You can say the same for many portable devices.  Is it the entertainment value?  The argument would be the same.  It must be something else, maybe size?  We are a bit more apprehensive when purchasing a television or anything else that is firmly rooted in a physical space for that matter.  Why are mobile devices different? Two words, mobile (obviously) and showmanship.

Add the word mobile to anything and people’s interest perks.  Why? We love the fact that we have potential access to any and all forms of content consumption in the palm of our hands anywhere we go… potentially.  Mobile enables the user to potentially grow their social circle virtually or physically, which leads to the second word of showmanship.  A mobile device also extends narcissism.  Self promotion grows exponentially through mobile devices.  We may not publicly admit that but do quietly seek that gratification, which unfortunately clouds our reasoning for functionality.  So is there hope for mobile devices?  Absolutely and here is how:

  • Ask a question that can be answered with a single function, what do I need this device to do for me.  It better be more than making you look cool.
  • For justification, look for practical features that you value now, not the potential the device may hold. Think immediacy rather than the horizon.
  • Accept the march of progress. Unless you bleed money, you will never be able to future proof your purchases. Tech changes almost weekly, hence the need for the immediacy.

This sounds wasteful and not environmentally sound but neither is the current state of disposable technology, an argument saved for another day.  This post is how to take back the control of mobile purchases.  If you cannot do the three bullet points listed above than the answer is simple, do not buy into the hype.  Functionality should always trump design, or more specifically functions you seek support.

I love mobile and still swoon upon gripping a new toy, intoxicated by the smell of plastic.  So maybe this is more of do as I say and not as I do.  But I too must step back and evaluate how this technology must impact my life and not how it should.  Control is something we relinquish for the sake of gratification.  We now must learn restraint.  Create a story for which a device can take the sidekick role, otherwise keep looking and enjoy the solo ride.


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