Thursday, May 17, 2012

Public Places become Private

Photo from The Atlantic
I read an interesting article in the Atlantic about how smart phones make the public sphere suddenly private. The article seemed fitting with our project in some ways because I am a big believer in the fact that smartphones take away from our experiences outside of our homes. Think about it. On the train, you pull out your phone because you have no one to talk to -- you can check your email, text your friends, check facebook, read an article or a book, listen to music, tweet... there's so much to take your attention away from our surroundings. 
"Smart phones, in short, have given users the impression that they move through communal spaces as if in private bubbles. 'They feel that everywhere they are, they have their privacy,' Hatuka says. Smart phones have created, the researchers say, 'portable private personal territories.'" 
And there's evidence of this everywhere. Think about the way people listen to music now versus 30 years ago. I happened to run into one of my professors once on the bus and we got to talking about this very phenomena. Music used to be an inherently public thing. Everyone would be listening to the same song on the bus, in a store, in various places,  but now people can listen to music without sharing it. With that comes less interaction with other people, less opportunities for small talk or shared smiles over a mutual pleasure in a public place.  
The article claims that this is not a good thing. "The public sphere plays an important role in our communities: it’s where we observe and learn to interact with people who are different from us, or, as academics put it, it’s where we come to know 'the other.'"
So we should do our best to keep the "public in the public sphere, to actively encourage people to observe and interact with each other." Like Marooned on the Subway! :) I encourage all of you to take a step out of your comfort zone and try talking to someone you don't know instead of checking out your phone. It doesn't have to be for the whole train ride -- even a few minutes will do. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...