The Glorious, Almost-Disconnected Boredom of My Walk in Japan

Excerpt from this article:

I wanted to share my walk too, but without getting caught up in the small loops of contemporary sharing platforms. So here’s where my rules limiting output came into play. Unlike Bird, I wasn’t exploring parts of Japan hitherto unseen by non-Japanese eyes, so a series of lengthy letters to friends didn’t quite make sense. Instead I riffed off the terseness of SMS messaging to share the psychological and physiological experience of the actual walking. Using a custom-built SMS tool, I sent out a daily text and one photo to an unknown number of recipients. One rule of the system was that I didn’t know who had subscribed. The subscribers joined by texting “walk” to a number I wrote on my website and in my newsletters. I’m pretty sure the daily update went out to hundreds, if not thousands of people, but I could not see them.

The recipients could respond, but I’ve yet to see what they said. Those responses have been collected in a print-on-demand book that’s waiting for me when I get back home. My intent is then to respond to the responses in aggregate, long after the walk is finished.

The goal of this convoluted system is to use the network without being used by it. And the purpose of time-shifted conversation is to share the walk without being pulled away from it. I could use a tool like Instagram to approximate this, but I’d have to fight with its algorithm and avoid looking at the timeline. I am not superhuman. I would look at the notifications, the likes, and comments. Reply to them. Become intoxicated by the chemicals released by the tiny loops. Invariably this process would make me think about that audience and how they would be reacting to the next text and photo. I would have lost the purity of the experience. And yet, with global network connectivity, there’s no reason to not also broadcast, in part, in real time. To both consider the experience and share it with immediacy. The daily SMS became a forcing function that deepened my experience of the walk, made me more aware of how painful or joyful or crushingly boring the days were. Being able to share in somewhat real time and not be pulled out of the moment was just an issue of tools and framing.

 

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Google Maps Pulls Calorie-Counting Feature After Criticism

Excerpt from this article:

The iPhone app told her that walking instead of driving would burn 70 calories. While it was perhaps meant as an incentive to walk, those with eating disorders might instead fixate on the number, a dangerous mind-set that counselors try to minimize, she said… Some users were especially upset that the app used mini cupcakes to put the burned calories into perspective, framing food as a reward for exercise, or exercise as a prerequisite for food.

Message to Self: In 2015, Stop Texting While Walking

Excerpt from this article, and happy new year!

As a society, we now spend almost half of our waking hours looking at screens… according to a 2013 research report compiled by Liberty Mutual Insurance, 70 percent of people in the United States admit to texting and walking.

“So much attention has been paid, and rightly so, to distracted driving that we have ignored the fact that distracted walking and crossing can be just as risky,” David Melton, a driving safety expert with Liberty Mutual, wrote in the report.

…If you’re one of the people who admit to texting and walking but pride yourself on being an expert at this task, there is lot of research that shows you’re actually not.

A study published earlier this year in the medical journal PLOS One found that walking and using your smartphone at the same time affects people’s posture and balance, causing them to swerve and walk slower. (In other words, you look like a person who’s had six too many drinks.) As a result, researchers found, texting and walking can cause accidents, “including falls, trips and collisions with obstacles or other individuals.”