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Tech

Predicting the multi-screen world in 1967

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Following in the footsteps of Charles and Ray Eames fascinating look at the future at the 1964 World’s Fair, cartoonist Rube Goldberg further envisioned the prospect of screen culture years later in 1967.

What he didn’t foresee was that all of these individual devices (TV, phone, radio, camera, etc.) would converge into a single device: the smartphone.

Today’s obsession with multi-screen entertainment and multitasking behavior was only a matter of time. Screens are second-nature, as people prefer to be distracted all the time to make the outside world easier to cope with.

Meanwhile, electricity is still providing the pipes.

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Categories
Psychology Tech

How design dictates behavior

A gif of eyeballs moving around in trippy, Psychedelic fashion

Left, right, top, and bottom…

Designers make decisions every day that dictate human behavior. The social media notification–in Instagram aesthetics the heart–is what keeps users opening the app more than a dozen times a day.

How many likes did we get on our last post? Any new followers? We crave the variable reward, chasing persistent novelty in the cocoon of candy-colored lights.

Site architecture, like a map, is a mere representation. It’s an illustrated abstraction of territory just as skeuomorphism makes an icon for trash look like a garbage can.

Design is everything. The user interface makes no distinction between a screen and reality–it just wants us to stick around and navigate. The distinction between what we see versus the actual pixels creates a fragmented perspective, with a deliberate me and a hooked me.

gif by @sguimaraens

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Books Tech

Crossing a telephone with a TV set

Image of old Western Electric ad for telephone and TV set

What do you get when you cross a telephone with a TV set? That’s what Western Electric was asking in 1968 with this advertisement for its Picturephone.

Western Electric is crossing a telephone with a TV set.

What you’ll use is called, simply enough, a Picturephone set. Someday it will let you see who you are talking to, and let them see you.

The Picturephone set is just one of the communications of the future Western Electric is working on with Bell Telephone Laboratories. Western Electric builds regular phones and equipment for your Bell telephone company. But we also build for the future.

What is now considered FaceTime on the iPhone, the convergence of video and phone technology took another 42 years to come to fruition. The above image appears in the book The Golden Age of Advertising: The 60s.

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Tech

Time to get up!

Gif of fingers walking on a mobile phone screen

The only thing truly scary about excess screen time is a lack of exercise. When your eyes get stuck, so does you butt and your neck.

Fortunately, the same tech that keeps you grounded can also remind you to move. Thanks to my iWatch prompts, I avoid the digital vacuum and walk around the apartment and take the dog out more often.

Statistics keep you honest. You got to get your steps in or the tech will call you out. Needless to say, digital health monitoring has a huge future.

From sharing status updates to tracking your sedentary status, technology is the glue that binds and motivates people. All this connectivity is like the reinvention of printing press but with no strings attached.

The internet has infinite inventory to entertain and distract you all day. But your health and attention are scarce resources. They have a shelf life.

Just remember to disconnect more often than you think. Once you grab a leash and take your thoughts for a walk, everything will be just fine.

gif by @alexkao

Categories
Culture Social Media Tech

Disattention is the new attention

A gif of a mask around a woman Silhouette with white eyes

There’s no cap on freedom of speech, nor is there one on attention. The latter, unfettered, encumbers our thinking with the juiciest of distractions.

Facts no longer keep attention. It’s all about the design, bluster, the infomercial, and the story. Distortion runs rampant because in the age of social media tribes bias controls the narrative. The downsizing from mass to niches means our grip on the world is more illusory than ever.

What information consumes is rather obvious. It consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.

Herbert Simon

Hiding behind our screens of self-promotion does nothing to generate change. A digital identity is full of artifice and spin.

The key to unlocking the facade is to see through its pixel-less value. Avatars are mere masks. The real world still needs impactful design, a far stretch from craving the irreality of a facelift.

gif by @elinanikkinen

Categories
Culture Life & Philosophy Poetry Tech

The sound of the future

First came the radio, then television, and now the pocket-sized smartphone. Each iteration seemed to enhance our addiction to glow. #gif
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We used to drive horses, then cabs, and now Uber. Ideas, hardly new, get retranslated to match the demands of modern times.

First came the radio, then television, and now the pocket-sized smartphone. Each iteration seemed to enhance our addiction to glow.

From snail mail to email, to instant messaging — this time is different they say, confusing progress with advancement.

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Tech Video

This miniature ring could be the future of wearable tech 💍

Xenxo S-Ring - The World's Smartest Smart Wearable

[bha size=’120×120′ variation=’01’ align=’alignright’]Smart devices are getting smaller and smaller. The Xenxo S-Ring (Kickstarter) could be the latest in wearable tech to turn your hand into a phone, operate as a flash drive, act as a credit-card for on the go payments, track your steps, and more.

It’s a Bluetooth enabled remote control for your smartphone that allows you to interact with the world without staring at the rectangular glow.

We are not too far from implanting these types of smart devices into our bodies.

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Culture Social Media Tech

Staring into distraction 📲

The smartphone is a vehicle for distraction.

Statistics show that smartphone distraction kills productivity, on top of the fact that we’re already scatterbrained: our minds wander 47% of the time.

The phone is also a bandaid for anxiety. We cradle the device like a baby, holding it in anticipation of the next buzz so we tend to its loneliness and release ourselves from the maw of boredom.

How can we live in the now if we’re stuck in a ludic loop, anticipating the next variable reward in a perpetual bottomless feed? We are forever hooked to staring into a rectangular glow of external stimuli, caught between texts, shopping lists, and other mind-grabbing dopamine stimulants.

Digital hijacks human attention, giving us the memory of a fish. Even the slightest act of noticing helps us step outside the aquarium to avoid the social imitations of mindlessness.

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Culture Psychology Science Tech

The smartphone functions as a proxy for personal identity 

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The smartphone is an extension of the body. We know when we lose it because we feel empty without it.

“Though its precise dimensions may vary with fashion, a smartphone is fundamentally a sandwich of aluminosilicate glass, polycarbonate and aluminum sized to sit comfortably in the adult hand, and to be operated, if need be, with the thumb only. This requirement constrains the device to a fairly narrow range of shapes and sizes; almost every smartphone on the market at present is a blunt slab, a chamfered or rounded rectangle between eleven and fourteen centimeters tall, and some six to seven wide. These compact dimensions permit the device to live comfortably on or close to the body, which means it will only rarely be misplaced or forgotten, and this in turn is key to its ability to function as a proxy for personal identity, presence and location.”

Read A Sociology of the Smartphone

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Apps Photography Psychology Social Media Tech

Stuck in a state of perpetual refresh 🔄

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The newest app, the latest iPhone — we make an excuse to spend more time with our smartphones. What can be perceived as self-absorption is also hypnosis, as the phone’s rectangular glow grips us into a ludic loop.

Social networks intend to get us out of a trance and sting us into experiencing the world; at least that’s what Instagram and Pinterest promised to do at their inception. Instead, our phones have our first, second, and third eye, recording memories so we can consume and forget about them again later. We are walking zombies, skilled without an iota of consciousness.

The smartphone is an arsenal of distraction, a computer, tv, stereo, and communications device propping up the thumbs of our hands. But it’s also the most liberating tool we’ve ever had. Used wisely, we can shape it to goad our curiosity, make new friends, and explore our creative instincts.