Monday, September 29, 2008

The New Paradigm

I am not in love with my phone--that thing in the home that sounds an alarm when someone wishes to speak from theirs to mine. My distain for the phone is rooted in my ideas regarding self-interest. Will people tend to call me when it is in my interest or theirs?

Obviously, people will tend to call me when it is in their interest. Sometimes their interest overlaps with mine, but not enough to make me glad to hear phone ring. Occasionally I am pleasantly surprised.

Why would I want to carry this thing with me everywhere? Yes, I am so old that I do not routinely carry a cell phone.

But the young folk, who have not figured out this self-interest thing carry the phones. Well, that is not entirely true. Young folk carry the phones, but they almost never answer phone calls. They look at the display, see who is calling, but do not answer. However they answer text messages. Why?

My theory is that text messages allow the receiver to better control the communication channel. The self-interest thing applies. That is, a young whipper-snapper can glance at the message and say, "Oh, Sparky wants to meet for lunch. I hate Sparky. Forget it." Then she does not return the message. Or she might say, "Athena says her boyfriend yelled at her? Wow, I gotta' know more!" And then she can return the message.

Talking is much more efficient than typing from the standpoint of being able to communicate large amounts of information. But maybe the young folks do not want large amounts of information.

As I read everywhere I turn, the new technologies may be training the young to have zero attention spans. Two "friends" walk down the sidewalk, each texting someone else, not very aware of each other. Or maybe they are actually talking on the phone--each to someone else (how did they get anyone to answer?).

Which brings me to what triggered me to write this. The hallway outside my office was empty. A student passed by me. He said, "Where is Dr. T.'s office?"

It turns out that I could not just say, "Third on the right." There is a corner, a side door, and another side door to navigate. I stopped to give him directions. I said, "It's on this floor, but it's not easy to find." But he did not stop. He kept strolling, not looking back. I paused, waiting for him to stop and pay attention. He kept walking.

I said, "Good luck finding her."

I wonder if he remembered that he had asked me the question. Maybe he was busy texting?

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