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The iPocalypse

Friends,

In the last few years smartphones have become ubiquitous in society.  Walking down the street its impossible not to see people wearing ear-buds.  Sitting on public transit you would be blind not to notice that everyone around you has their eyes glued to whatever viral video or vine is popular at the moment.  Well, either blind or immersed in that same video on your own phone.

These typical bland & innocuous observations out of the way I want to dig a little deeper than your average observational blogger might be wont to do.  Now I gotta qualify what I say by pointing out that I tend to be a bit contrary and I will argue any position even if its to point out that the person I am arguing with hasn’t thought deeply enough about their point of view even if I share their point of view. Whatever, I’m a dick like that I guess.  That said, the anti-smartphone sentiment has become fairly common Facebook bitching-fodder, and by default I am suspicious of any view which becomes the common man’s claim to intellectual discourse (see: atheism).  

So, without any further ado…

The Zombie Apocalypse Redefined
One of the most common criticisms levied at smartphone zombies is that they are in fact the zombies slated to take over the world in the imminent zombie apocalypse.

1157694_503904129686582_208437076_n

Now I actually have a little bit of sympathy for this view, but only insofar as smartphone obsession is treated as an aspect of materialism and conspicuous consumption.  This view was of course explored in Goerge A. Romero’s classic Dawn of the Dead (1978), although I confess I have never watched it the full way through and thus such observations on my part are only hearsay.

Dawn_of_the_dead

However, when this zombie comparison is postulated reductively to suggest that anyone immersed in the virtual world is a zombie, I begin to take a bit of an issue.  In a limited sense I agree: People being oblivious to what is going on around them can open them up to many hazards, but at the same time many of these hazards already exist even without smartphones.  Take for example walking into traffic and getting hit by a car: There’s a lot of variables present in that event, including but not limited to, the amount of traffic, the condition of the vehicle, the speed of travel, the disposition/distraction level of the driver, the awareness and agility of the pedestrian, etc…  But the witch-hunt for oblivious smartphone zombies assumes that someone on a smartphone is the prime cause for such an event.  Taken more broadly, this seems to be the latest permutation of our society’s fascination and preoccupation with foisting all responsibility for a complex occurrence, inevitably brought about as a result of a multitude of factors,  upon a single individual for expediency’s (and legal liability’s) sake.  Taking a systems approach and looking at the broad range of causality is simply not done because it would force us to ask difficult questions about our obsolete infrastructure and the lunacy of manually-operated cars and trucks when safe, automated operation is a technological reality.
*********
However, potential hazards notwithstanding, can an individual immersed in smartphone reality be accused of being a zombie?  Not always.
You see, that way I figure it, a smartphone zombie is distinct from you average couch potato in two important regards: One is visibility.  Whereas the couch potato immerses himself in his vice largely in private, the smartphone zombie engages in his smartphonery for all the world to see.  Hence, in my opinion, the popular backlash.

zombies3

The other distinction is that the smartphone zombie’s obsession is mitigated by the fact that his experience is not passive.  Certainly its not active in the same way punching someone in the dick or having sex is active, but its certainly interactive.  Even if its something as malignant as flaming a cancer patient’s support page, there is still more effort and thought being put into the endeavour than simply receiving a message.  Hell, the greatest part about the internet, aside from access to the entire world, is the ability to leave your indelible mark on that world.  And, with all those possibilities at someone’s fingertips suddenly me bitching about my day doesn’t seem all that interesting as a topic of discussion.  Which brings me to my next point…

It Hurts to be Ignored
We’ve all hung out with someone who could not put their phone away for five seconds.  It’s one of those things that becomes more insulting the more you dwell on it.  You roll your eyes whenever their attention wanders from you to their phone or groan audibly whenever their phone beeps or vibrates.  The feelings of rejection and unimportance inspired by occurrences like this are very real and are not diminished because you are being brushed aside for an object rather than a person.
Typically, I don’t get upset by stuff like this anymore because I try to keep two rules in mind:

Rule #1: “The responsibility for being understood belongs to the speaker; the responsibility for understanding belongs to the listener
Let’s call this the prime directive of communication; obviously you can only influence your own actions in any direct, meaningful way, and since you play both the listener and the speaker in any given exchange, the responsibility for understanding is always yours.  The upshot is that if you can’t communicate with someone who is absorbed with their smartphone then you are not coming at them effectively.  Don’t waste time fretting about how “unnatural” a form of communication it is because you can’t reach them with your words.  That’s like a guy talking about how sex is a really superficial and lame way to bond with people because he has erectile dysfunction.  Bottom line: reach out to people on their level and work to bring them to your level.  Don’t start on your level then become bitter when they don’t respond to you  There’s a reason why my French teachers taught us French class in English.  If they came into a classroom of English-speaking 10-year-olds and started spouting off in frog-speak my notebook would probably have been filled with dick drawings instead of conjugated verbs…
…and French impressionist dick paintings, graphite on paper.

Rule #2: “Don’t have conversations with distracted people.”
I learned this little gem from a book called, “How to be a Pick-Up Artist” by Wayne “Juggler” Elise.  I believe the lesson here is really two-fold:
First, and the more immediately pragmatic of the two aspects, if you persist in talking with someone whose attention is elsewhere, some part of the message is going to get lost.  It’s like, don’t give me directions while I’m on the phone getting the results of a medical exam.  There’s a chance I might not remember the finer points of your instructions if my own mortality is first and foremost on my mind.  To take this kind of example to a less extreme level, sometimes my girlfriend wants to tell me about what so and so said at the gym.  While this information is not incredibly essential to my continued existence I am happy to digest it, even if it is occasionally uninteresting, if only to strengthen the bond between me and her.  However, if she begins sharing said story while I am typing away furiously on something as profound and consequential to my existence as, say…this blog post, and then simply to fill the silence, then I might look at her incredulously and slightly annoyed.  That is not effective communication.
The second aspect in this rule is that you should have a little more self-respect; if someone is ignoring what you’re saying because they are too wrapped up in other things, but you keep talking in an attempt to win them over, then you are demonstrating lower value.  You are implicitly telling this person that you are worthy of only a fraction of their attention by co-signing their inattentiveness with your continued engagement.  Stop doing this.  Also, it need not be adversarial; simply tell them politely that you will let them finish what they are doing and then talk to them.  9 times out of 10 they will put aside whatever occupies their attention (smartphone in this case) and give you their rapt attention.  If they brush your polite concern aside and insist that they can concentrate on you and their phone at the same time, remain firm in your polite refusal to have conversations with a distracted person.  They will eventually come around and respect you the more for it at a sub-conscious level.  Or, they will stop hanging out with you.  But in this latter case, if they don’t have it in them to ever give you complete attention then they probably aren’t worth your friendship.

To these two rules I might add a third: If you are going to insist on having someone’s complete attention, at least have some interesting shit to say.

I think that if these two (3) rules are followed and really adhered to then we wouldn’t have the current backlash against smartphones that currently exists.  It all comes down to communication; if you’re a good communicator with interesting shit to say, no technology is going to stand in your way.  If you suck at communication and you talk about banal shit …well, no amount of pining for the good old days of probing, intellectual discourse while sitting in well-worn leather chairs in front of a fire while swirling brandy in snifters is going to cover for the fact that you talk like a faggot and your shit’s all retarded.

This unfortunately does not bring me to my last point in any artful way, so apologies if my argument seems disjointed, but here goes.

Motherfuckers Love Them Some ‘Takin’ Shit Out of Context”
Consider the following image

images

What do you thing Einstein meant when he said this?  What do you really think he meant by saying this in the first part of the 20th century when the possibilities for inter-continental communications were being initially being explored and promised to bring all people closer together?
Do you think he meant:
A: “We must be careful not to lose our humanity and critical mind in an age of mechanization and automation which promises to alleviate many of the burdens now placed upon us” …or something to that effect (This is my own personal interpretation BTW)
or…
B: “Fuck cell phones and anyone who uses them!” (Not an actual Einstein quotation…at least I don’t think so)

Don’t get me wrong, I think there is a way in which a solid quotation can have empirical value than transcends the context in which it was initially delivered, but we really gotta be more selective about the piecemeal way in which we apply broad ideas and concepts to issues of marginal importance.

Conclusion
I’m not really sure.
I’m all for deconstructing what I feel is a popular backlash against smartphone technology, but that is not to say I see no problems whatsoever with the use/misuse of them or any other technology.  I guess more than anything my point is a variation of what it always is: look at the bigger picture, place things in a broader context and question everything.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

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Seeing my Privates

“Our technology has exceeded our humanity”
-Albert Einstein

My Friends,
   A friend of mine posted this link last night about a currently unavailable app called Girls Around Me. The writer of the blog/review recounts telling a group of friends about an app which allowed someone to find people with public facebook profiles in a certain geographic radius.  These didn’t have to be people on a friend’s list, but anyone who had logged onto facebook from their iphone, basically allowing the user to see facebook users nearby and view their profiles, though it could be set to locate boys, girls or both.  Predictably, the boys of the group thought it was funny while the girl’s thought it was invasive and upsetting.  The rationale for the female apprehension was that a guy could find a cute girl at a bar, look at her pics to see what kind of drinks she likes, what some of her interests are and where she is at a certain moment so that he could go intercept her and come off as Mr. Right, either through slick conversation of liberally applied “frosty margaritas.”
   By the article’s end, the writer describes how his friends, males included, were all uneasy about the invasiveness of the app, and describes how its main function in his eyes was to hammer home the importance of being aware of your facebook privacy settings, and online privacy in general.  I don’t take issue with this conclusion, and the company which created the app maintains that people could always have adjusted their privacy settings.  Rather what I take issue with is the knee-jerk reaction to this technology because it is misdirected, as I find most indignation typically is.
   The girls in the article took issue with Apple and Facebook for allowing this app to be created and sold, and of course with the potential rapists and stalkers who would undoubtedly try and use it to rape and stalk more efficiently.  Because if there is anything the ambitious rape/stalker values it is maximizing his preying to prowling ratio.

Possible Tagline: “Girls Around Me: The industry leader in streamlining raping and stalking operations”
…or perhaps…
“Girls Around Me: Rape Solutions for the Modern Predator”

   In the case of the FB/Apple rage and the uproar which ultimately caused the app to be shut down: is this really the answer?  App censorship?  Making something illegal or removing it entirely is not the proper way to deal with a problem but that logic seems to dominate any thinking about problem resolution.  If we ban enough potentially offensive (or actually offensive) things, will the ne’er-do-wells among us, constantly biding their time waiting to pounce, finally get the message that we don’t appreciate the threat they pose and leave us alone?  Of course not.  When has a law or a ban or a removal of something ever stopped or curtailed undesired behaviours and interests?  But clamoring for new rules is a lot easier than taking time to think critically and address causes I suppose.
   With regard to the so-called “stalkers and rapists” whom this app served as an enabler for, I have to ask: has this app really been that much of a boon?, and do they even really exist?  Now I don’t mean to downplay the problem of rape and obsessive behaviours like stalking, and I am not claiming anything like the stats being overblown because I don’t know the stats and frankly even one incident is too many.  But still, do these people really exist?  I don’t question the possibility that given a certain sequence of events, moods, and opportunities that rapes can happen.  But when people talk about rapists and other criminals like them, their rhetoric always seems to allude to a shadowy group which is constantly watchful in alleys outside of clubs, waiting for an unescorted girl in a miniskirt and wobbly with booze to swoop in on.

First rule of ‘Rape Club’…

Certainly to such a group as this, Girls Around Me would be a boon, revolutionizing the rape game by allowing the predator a menu of sorts, but I question the very existence of this secretive cabal of rapists and stalkers.
   Now remember who is saying this: I am someone who has no problem believing that there are certain powers which pull strings behind the curtains and who are the true controllers of the world we think our “democratically elected” leaders run, however I can’t co-sign the prospect that there are rapists everywhere among us**, and certainly I can’t co-sign the idea that they are legion.
   Well, one exception comes to mind…
   When I hear criticisms of this technology, I see fear that is not unfounded but misdirected.  People are so worried about the implications of technology that they will still use anyway because it is actually amazing and has the potential to be incredibly useful if everyone completely opened their privacy settings.  But we can’t because we have reason to fear being completely open with strangers: why?
   Again we come back to “why,” my oft-asked favourite question.  Why should we be afraid of other people?  Like I said, the fear, though overblown, is not unfounded.  Why might someone use this or any technology to hurt us?
   To those like me who fear institutions more than their fellow man: why would you be afraid of an organization or government using this or any social media to spy on you or data-mine you?  Why would they want to data-mine and spy in the first place?
   In my head it is clear that these potential misappropriations of technology in no way reflect poorly on the technology or its creator, but rather on the system which puts us at odds with each other to the point where we would use potentially beneficial creations as weapons.  If you think about it, all technologies are neutral, yet they get blamed for misuse and the violence which is integral to the system which applies them.
   Think I’m full of shit?  Mebbe, but let me quickly demonstrate how any technology can be hijacked for violent purposes:

1. Toothbrush

   What’s more wholesome and beneficial than a toothbrush?  It conjures up images of young children learning hygiene and taking charge of their dental health.  But to some, this revolutionary technology has far more sinister applications:

“Late night I hear toothbrushes scrapin’ on the floor/
Niggaz gettin’ they shanks just in case the war/
pop off!..”
-Snoop Dogg Lion, Murder Was The Case

2. Pencil

   Arguably one of the greatest pieces of technology ever created.  Allows us to solidify ideas on paper and gives us something to chew on when stumped.  But it can be repurposed…

“…My little homey Baby-Boo took a pencil in his neck/
And he probly won’t make it to see 22/
I put that on my mama, ‘Imma ride for you Baby-Boo’…”
-Snoop Lion, Murder Was The Case

3. Fire
   I don’t think anyone needs me to post a picture of fire nor tell of how it allowed us to cook food, smelt metal and power early machines.  Without saying it is more useful than pencils have been, it has certainly been more fundamental to our early development.  However, it too has been repurposed for negative uses:
I suppose we should ban fire now?

4. Rocketry
It can be either this:
Saturn V Rocket, the kind that sent to the astronauts to the moon

Or this:
Trident II Nuclear Missile

Any questions?

***
   I hope these examples make it clear that technology is in and of itself benign.  Certainly some might be inherently dangerous, such as nuclear technologies, but they are not by themselves malicious or violent.  It takes an aberrant and poorly socialized human being (or human species) to look at something and decide, hey instead of using that for the good of all I think I’ll use it to kill…
…or rape, as the case may be.

Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo
**In a certain manner of speaking, I think there actually are rapists everywhere among us. Perhaps more than even the most paranoid father of virginal young daughters might think.  For I think most anyone can rape or commit a violent act given the right (wrong) circumstances.  It is folly when people, in shock from stories of a horrible crime, ask, “How could someone do that to another human being?,” or even worse when they maintain, “I could never do something like that.”  
   Well, no one is born evil (evil doesn’t even exist) or born a rapist, much less conceived that way.  So the factors which contributed to their aberrant behaviour must be environmental, which means that anyone can be susceptible to becoming a predator or violent if certain conditions are met.  When we are told as kids that we “can be anything,” there is actually a lot more truth there than we realize.

   

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