• Aarushi

Review on Smartphone- Radical Technologies

Updated: Mar 12, 2020

Smartphone - The networking of self from Radical Technologies by Greenfield is very relevant reading for the present time. It was not long ago when people used to find it absurd to see someone on their phones all the time, whereas that scenario has become habitual for most people nowadays.

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Greenfield very aptly states in the chapter that smartphones are dematerializing our lives. We are using them to meet people, communicate, entertain ourselves, buy & sell, documenting memories and many more, we are literally using them to fill the dead spaces of our lives. The texture of daily experience has been transformed. Our life is being strongly shaped by the detailed design of the smartphone handset. We are giving them the authority to function as a proxy for our personal identity. We are not fully aware that by using so many apps on our phones we are straightforwardly trading our privacy for convenience. Smartphones are no longer an augmentation but a necessity, our desire for a smartphone has yet to reach its saturation point.

The author describes through his research that these glowing slabs of polycarbonate (smartphone) have swallowed almost all the things people once had floating around in their pockets and purses. They have supplanted the Walkman, the transistor radio, the boombox, the conventional watch, calendars, datebooks, tickets, tokens, business cards, address books, directories, maps, digicams, compass and the list goes on, all of these have been subsumed by a single object, the mobile phone.

The reading correctly demonstrates that the texture of the daily life experience has been transformed, the conventional telephone booths have disappeared from streets, and so is the etiquettes of negotiated waiting and deconfliction that attended it. We have been deprived of the experience of finding and navigating places through a physical map, as all of these substantial experience has been transfigured into a dance of ones and zeros.

Overall, in the reading, Greenfield strongly emphasizes on the fact that these blunt slabs have consumed most of the tangible experiences people used to have more than a decade back. He enlightens the reader about how reliant we have become on these devices that we can not abandon them in spite of knowing that we are trading our privacy/data by using different applications such as maps which provide them with our exact location wherever we go, and on basis of that information they build a detailed picture of our behaviour.

My critique on the reading would be, that it is not very well balanced in terms of informing the reader about both the positive and negative sides of the most addictive product designed in the last two decades. I strongly agree that these glowing slabs have made us reliant on them to accomplish ordinary goals, they have deprived us of great tangible experiences, but in today's busy and competitive lives we don't actually have time to access different products for distinct activities.

The author correctly states that the social media applications on our phones change us materially, rewiring neurotransmitter pathways, which triggers us to keep going back on these platforms when the dopamine surge subsides. But I would like to argue that the psychological aspect is not fully taken into consideration to make strong points about the psychology of the user and his actions. I believe that discussing behavioural design in the reading would have given us some unanswered questions.

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