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Our Relationship with (Tech) Things

    Our relationship with Technology

    “Technology. Everyone’s so afraid of missing what’s next they never bother to fix/optimise what’s here now.”  I read this tweet by Luke Wroblewski a few days after the team had the same sort of conversation during a project meeting. We were reviewing what to keep and what to throw out of a website.  The client wanted a real spring cleaning, and they wanted something new – something fresh. The problem with “New” is that it soon becomes “Old”. As they say: “There is really nothing wrong with a bologna sandwich.”

    We are all very excited about the latest phone or app or framework;  but wouldn’t it be much better to have those things we expect to work actually work before we invest further resources into making the next cool thing?  Why yes, you say, it probably would.

    Technology has given us a great many useful tools that have made our lives interesting and often better. Our car notified us when there was a problem with the air pressure of a tire, and it turned out there was a small nail lodged in it. That is good tech.

    Our smartphones allow us to easily find places when we are lost. We can order groceries online and have them delivered.  Some items are time-saving, some well perhaps we did without in the past. Our dishwasher connects with an app and lets us know when it needs emptying. Perhaps some tech is not completely necessary …

    A phone doesn’t really need to come in 13 colours. It just needs to do what we need it to.  A website doesn’t need to have cool scrolling if it isn’t even optimised for a mobile device.  What is the point of a phone that is red or squeezable if the battery lasts 30 minutes; or a parallax scrolling website if you can’t read it on your mobile phone?

    One of my laptops no longer charges, and the cost of repair is way more than a new laptop even though it is only 2 years old.   My last client meeting was in a very hip cafe which had great decor and interesting coffee cups, but very slow and irregular wifi.   Do you see where I am going with this?

    We talk about the Internet of Things, which is ironic because we seem to treat it just like a thing.  In our disposable society, when something is broken we throw it away.  Indeed most things seem to be designed to meet that end – they are too expensive to repair or are simply impossible to.  So, we buy the next version, Thing 1.1, and are pretty happy with it until it too breaks.

    We are mostly reliant on our mobile phones. We use them to make a call, email, chat, photograph, watch movies … an endless list of activities.  The price of a top of the line phone is closing in on what I paid for my first phone (2000 dollars for a Motorola ‘Brick’ in 1993).  Each year the middle class dwindles and the divide between rich and poor widens. We are becoming more and more reliant on the internet and our phones for everything from information to leisure. Wearables are connecting us to medical, insurance, and other services.

    I see a time when good devices and reliable internet/wifi will be available only at considerable cost and then only to a very small segment of the population. There will still be internet and wifi and mobile phones for everyone – but I believe there will be a divide between our tech and their tech much like there is a difference between eating at McDonalds or at a Michelin restaurant.

    Long term what does the future hold for us if we are unable to afford the best tech?  Will we have the best/uptodate information? An unmonitored internet? Access to other services? Short term how can we slow down our ravishing appetite for the best and coolest devices and websites when we don’t use/optimise those we already have to their existing potential.

    This constant improvement is in many ways simply constant distraction. It’s like a relationship we can’t be bothered to work on.   It’s just easier to break up and find someone else. But at what cost?

    Luke’s tweet:

    Other interesting articles on the net:

    This is your phone on feminism
    Maria Farrell // September 13, 2019
    How to fix our disturbingly unequal relationship with smartphones

    Wenn die Fitnessuhr den Schweinebraten verbietet

    Technology, the Faux Equalizer