Disheartened Man Expected At Least One Text While Checking Phone After Flight

Excerpt from this spoof in the always excellent online satire, The Onion:

“It was a four-hour flight, so I assumed I’d get a text from somebody,” said a dejected Woods, 38, who had reportedly sent out text messages to three individuals before switching the phone to airplane mode prior to takeoff, setting himself up, in his mind, for multiple responses. “I figured it was just taking a while to connect to the network, but I could hear other people getting texts as soon as the plane landed. I turned it off and back on and there was still nothing.”

A Music-Sharing Network for the Unconnected

Photo: Digital-music merchants in Mali’s capital provide a vibrant human-driven alternative to iTunes. by Michaël Zumstein/Agence Vu, for The New York Times

Excerpt from this article, and be sure to check out the slideshow, excellent and interesting perspectives on downloading digital content in this part of the world:

…As of 2012 there were enough cellphones in service in Mali for every man, woman and child. The spread of cellphones in this way has driven innovation across the continent. M-Pesa, a text-message-based money-transfer system, has made financial services available for the first time to millions. Another enterprise tells rural farmers by text what their crops might sell for in distant markets; mass-texting campaigns have helped promote major public health initiatives.

Yet for many Africans, the phone is not merely, or even principally, a communications device. You can see this on the sun-blasted streets of Bamako, Mali’s capital, where a new kind of merchant has sprung up along Fankélé Diarra Street. Seated practically thigh to thigh, these vendors crouch over laptops, scrolling through screen after screen of downloaded music. They are known as téléchargeurs, or downloaders, and they operate as an offline version of iTunes, Spotify and Pandora all rolled into one. They know what their regulars might like, from the latest Jay Z album to the obscurest songs of Malian music pioneers like Ali Farka Touré. Savvy musicians take their new material to Fankélé Diarra Street and press the téléchargeurs to give it a listen and recommend it to their customers. For a small fee — less than a dime a song — the téléchargeurs transfer playlists to memory cards or U.S.B. sticks, or directly onto cellphones. Customers share songs with their friends via short-range Bluetooth signals.

How to Manage Media in Families

Excerpt from this article:

Parents have a love-hate relationship with firsts… But few firsts generate more ambivalence than the first cellphone.

On one hand, many parents welcome this milestone. Now they can keep track of their children when they’re out and notify the children if they’re running late. Also, parents gain leverage. One mother told me, “I’ve found the phone has given me newfound power as a parent, because I can take it away!”

On the other hand, children tend to disappear through the looking glass when they get their first phone. They become vulnerable to the dark side of the Internet, and once comfortable routines get upended. “We used to be a family before they got phones,” one father complained. “Now we’re never together.”

…How should parents handle this transition? Some discuss freedom and responsibility, hand over the device, then respond as situations arise. But others try to do more, laying down a set of rules.

…The Internet is bursting with dozens of multi-plank contracts for parents to execute with their children. As the father of tweens, I like this idea, but I’m also realistic enough to know that a three-page contract will be swiftly ignored and even it can’t keep up with the last parent-avoiding app. What I craved was a handful of overarching rules that could guide our interactions.

See also this related article, Rules for Teen and Tween Cellphone Use: Unspoken, or Printed and Signed?

The “broad overarching rules” that many families use to guide cellphone use described in Bruce’s article are useful (and the specific examples he found make great conversation starters). We’ve had many, many talks about the public nature of every exchange, and about the way you might trust your friend not to forward a text or email or screenshot a Snapchat, but can you really trust his older sister if she happens to pick up his phone? Anyone dragged into the public pillory by an unexpected video, or a tweet or text, becomes fodder for what could be described as our family’s personal ongoing crash course in the perils of modern living.

We probably haven’t spent enough time on the “grammar of texting” in that particular version of homeschooling. The advice the GeekDad Ken Diamond told Bruce that offered his teenage sons is advice I’ll share, too: Read it twice before you press “send,” and add some smiley faces.

This is what happens when you put away your phone for a week


Excerpt from this article:

1. People copied me: …Over the course of the week, I saw this effect again and again — when people pull out their devices and you don’t, not only do they feel pressured to put them away again more quickly, but they’re also far less likely to re-check them…

2. People liked talking to me more: …They could tell they had my undivided attention — not only was I not doing that half-nod, half-scroll thing, but I wasn’t even thinking about checking my phone. My listening skills went through the roof. As a result, people were much more engaged. When we were discussing something light-hearted, they smiled and laughed more. When we were talking about something serious, they were more honest and thoughtful…

3. People trusted me more: Well, according to the research. Studies show using your phone around someone else makes you seem less trustworthy and less empathetic…

These strategies make it a little easier:

  • I turn my phone off if I know I’m about to be with other people.
  • I stow my phone in my bag, rather than my pocket, so it’s harder to access.
  • I pretend I’m playing a game in which I get money for every phone-free interaction
  • I remind myself of the long-term gratification of building better relationships.

The Case For More Screen Time

Excerpt from this article:

For many of us, a certain mundane habit produces a surprising amount of guilt: Staring at a screen.

…Screen time can boost “executive function skills,” those competencies like reasoning and problem solving. For youngsters, time spent with the proper video games… can boost hand-eye coordination and foster logic… And as we rely more on texting and email, Calvert says small, positive symptoms could emerge: A knack for brevity, or a renewed appreciation for propriety, brought on by events like the recent Sony hack.

…”There seems to be pretty good evidence that our visual acuity improves… People’s ability to keep track of lots of different images or other bits of information simultaneously gets better.”

Online “lots of things tend to happen… So, the more time you spend online, you get quicker in your ability to shift your visual focus from one thing to another.” …Certain professionals—like surgeons, pilots, and soldiers—can hone their craft through video games.

…And what of the social impact? Lee Humphreys is an associate professor of communications at Cornell University. She specializes in the social effects of technology and the use of mobile phones in public spaces—and is swift to debunk the notion that whipping out a cell phone in public is taboo.

“We tend to romanticize history and the past in thinking that before cell phones, we were actively talking to the person next to us on the bus or in the park,” she says. “Of course, that was not the case at all. We have used media—whether it be newspapers, or books—as kinds of privacy shields historically.” Besides: Time spent socializing with others through screens can be time well spent, Humphreys adds.

Excellent Photoessay on Global Ubiquity of Mobile: “A World Transfixed by Screens”

World Transfixed Screens

Photo: Reuters/Lunae Parracho

Check out the whole photoessay here, full of images of mobile phone usage and behaviour around the world:

The continued massive growth of connected mobile devices is shaping not only how we communicate with each other, but how we look, behave, and experience the world around us. Smartphones and other handheld devices have become indispensable tools, appendages held at arm’s length to record a scene or to snap a selfie. Recent news photos show refugees fleeing war-torn regions holding up their phones as prized possessions to be saved, and relatives of victims lost to a disaster holding up their smartphones to show images of their loved ones to the press. Celebrity selfies, people alone in a crowd with their phones, events obscured by the very devices used to record that event, the brightly lit faces of those bent over their small screens, these are some of the scenes depicted below.