We all remember the original leader of the “thumb tribe” or oyayubisoku as they as they say in Japan, the Fonz. Back when times were simple; you took your best girl out to Arnold’s to get a Chocolate phosphate and some fries, and if you were lucky ended up at inspiration point to watch the submarine races… ah the good old days… so now have we jumped the shark?
Has technology strapped the water skis on us and challenged us go too far? Should we plug in via mobile devices with GPS tracking systems so we can tell people across town we are tired or happy? Are we creating a society of young people who need to escape from their reality into the privacy of their “I-motion” devices? Just because the shark was there doesn’t mean Fonzie had to jump it does it?
The Bionic Man
In Japan they call “ketai” addicted youths the “thumb tribe” because they are never without their mobile devices, clicking off text messages with their thumbs as they walk down the street or ride the subway. In Finland, home of Nokia they use the term “känny,” which literally translates to “hand” to describe their mobile devices. We have the technology we can rebuild him. In the seventies it seemed far out, but now it seems just around the corner.
Is the next evolutionary step for man a digital one? Have we reached our capacity for storage to we need to look beyond the brain to an external hard drive? Bush described the eventual need for mass data storage devices and the means to search and manage this information. Czerwinski takes Bush’s ideas from the third eye forehead camera to data management and applies it to the everyday. Through “computationally enhanced” objects such as pens, refrigerators, beds, and the dryer Czerwinski explores the affect technology can have on our quality of life and our memories.
We all have, or perhaps our parents do, that one set of drawers in the dinning room or a unused bedroom filled with old, some faded photographs, negatives and color slides. Some of us myself included even have Super 8mm and 16 mm films of holidays, graduations and other celebratory events. I know someday when the drawers are passed onto me I will ask the same question that Czerwinski asks “What do I do with all this stuff?”
Czerwinski suggests that if we were digitally storing all of this information, in video files, or still images, or sound bytes it would aid us in several ways: memory, sharing personal experiences, give us better opportunity for personal reflection and analysis, improve our time management, and offer us some extra layer of security. I see that rationale for having all of this stuff digitized, categorized and semantically searchable, but where is the fun in that. I love digging through the drawer and finding a picture I haven’t seen in years, or watching an old three minute 8 mm film of me and my brothers and sisters. They are long enough to highlight and event, and short enough to leave you wanting more. Much better than the hours of boring videos, where you set up the camera, with the seven hour tape and just let it run.
I guess if we could search OJ’s digital memory files it would be helpful to show us we what most of us already know, but I am not sure if that is a good thing. I am pretty sure that instant replay is good for football, and should be use in baseball, but I don’t know that I want it used on me. I have a feeling that my wife would be right more times than I want to admit. And I know, even though I have very few memories, that there are several nights in bars, in cities all over this country that I am glad no one has video of. Sometimes forgetting is a blessing.
The Person is the PC
Personal technologies are where the mobile handheld is going. The device will get smaller to the point where it’s too small to carry so why not attach it to or in our person. Truly make the känny the känny. Like Jason Bourne we can have a device implanted in our hip that downloads information automatically and displays it to us on a HUD that in worn like a contact lens.
Ergonomics was a buzz word in the 1990’s used to describe chairs, desks and computer equipment. Tomorrow we will be taking this user-centered design and applying it to the physical body. It will start with devices that attach to the ear, or wrap around a finger but eventually, these will become implanted devices, actual parts of the person; gives new meaning to the concept of personal computer.
Technology is driving us to a new level. At one time people joked that the next evolutionary step involved a chair or chouch-like appendage growing from our backsides, but now that vision of the future has radically changed. We are no longer required to be stationary in front of the computer, or set-top-box. We can and are encouraged to be mobile, on the move, actively moving about while all of our friends and associates text us about how happy they are. What is now fashion will become physiology.
If only Fonzie was wearing his Blackberry or i-mode device I could have warned, and convinced him not to jump the shark.
- Rheingold, H. (2002). Shibuya epiphany (pp. 1-28). Smart mobs. New York: Perseus.
- Czerwinski, M., Gage, D.W., Gemmell, J., Marshall, C., Pérez-Quiñonesis, M., Skeels, et al (2006). Digital memories in an era of ubiquitous computing and abundant storage. Communications of the ACM, 49(1), 45-50.
- Gershenfeld, N. (2005). Fab (Selection). New York: Basic Books.
- Optional: Kangas, E. & Kinnunen, T. (2005). Applying user-centered design to mobile application development. Communications of the ACM, 48(7), 55-59.
- Optional: Gemmell, J., Bell, G., & Lueder, R. (2006). MyLifeBits: a personal database for everything. Communications of the ACM, 49(1), 89-95.