I recently took a trip to Boston with my wife, just a little vacation to get away for a few days. While we were there, I tried to take full advantage of my new iPhone, by using Instagram to produce, share, and organize (read, send to Flickr) all my pictures on the fly, find places to eat (with the Yelp App), broadcast where we were (with Yelp), and get directions for the MBTA and around the twisty streets of the city.
Part of me loves to get lost, and just meander about a strange city. Of course, nobody really wants to get lost, and I think that’s increasingly more difficult with mobile technology. Users have to be literate to use their tools though – recently someone stopped me for directions, and when I had to look it up myself, they pulled out their smartphone and asked me to put the directions in it for them. Which begs the question, if they knew they had the functionality to do that, why not look it up themselves in the first place? It’s a sad fact that when we rely exclusively on those tools, we lose the experience of asking people for directions – meeting strangers and getting a better feel for who lives in the place we’re visiting.
More than anything, I found relying on my smartphone to learn about Boston and share that with others was very tiring. I was producing a disjointed narrative of isolated posts across social media, which would blend into the rest of my life with no discernible start or finish. The physical act of “checking in,” searching for locations, following directions, and so on still felt like an annoying distraction than an integrated experience of media immediacy.
Now that I’m back in Connecticut, I’ll be visiting YRM and classes will start soon. I’m also finishing up an entry for the Immediacy Online Journal at The New School, and thinking about a conference paper for The Violence of the Image – the news and video about Marines urinating on Afghan corpses seems a timely subject when reflecting on representation of human rights abuses in ongoing US conflicts.