online: 1 march 2005
modified: 2, 12 march 2005

1 march 2005 the wearable phone

becoming invisible, ubiquitous and multi-purposed

17:04 As i waited for a train i heard and saw a man next to me speaking to no one. He wasn't mad or even eccentric (he looked very sane, even dull) but i saw (in a second look) that he was wearing a tiny headset through which he was talking to someone else, in some other location... Yes, like many people of any kind or class, he has adapted so very readily to this surprising new habit, this exposure to strangers of whatever it is one wants to say (in intimate conversation) to someone who is not present... This is one of the greatest social changes i can recall - and it's happened so swiftly, so easily, so universally, and with so little resistance!

I think the shocking effect of speaking via a mobile ... comes of devaluing the place where you are and the people nearby - in favour of a non-geographic, non-spatial 'place' (or cyberspace) composed of conversations through an electronic channel, or computernet...

This devaluation of the people and things where one is (in favour of a conversation that is imposed on those within hearing distance) is i suppose what annoys some of us. But i remember a similar annoyance ... at the upper class habit of speaking loudly in public places in disregard of the presence of working class people, servants, or strangers... I wonder if the dislike of overhearing mobile phone conversations is a resentment at poorer people being enabled now to adopt a habit of the rich (and originally of kings and queens and lords and ladies and their courtiers)?

But there is more to it than that. This ability to reduce the importance or significance of *where* one is while increasing that of one's communicated *thoughts*, is a political change, ...a new form of existence - formerly confined to rulers, writers, artists, broadcasters and other professional users of public space, but now becoming an ability of anyone to disregard social limits that used to 'hold society together' (in the imprisoning culture as it used to be - each to his place and no real equality).

Today someone showed me one of the current generation of mobile phones - and a leaflet arrived offering 'a free camera or video phone with half price line rental'...

What surprises me most is the integration of functions in such a tiny instrument - becoming less and less like a specialised machine (with its machine-like operator) and more and more like the animal body. Speaking, hearing, writing, reading, seeing, and the recording of these, all in a single gadget (reminding me of the adaptation of the mouth for eating, breathing, lovemaking, speaking, singing, whistling (what else?) ... or the adaptation of the genitals for both excretion and reproduction).

This is, i believe, a profound change in the 'nature' of artificial things... The telephone, the camera, the cinematograph, the tape recorder, the type-writer, and also the postal system (consisting of letters, pens, inkwells, envelopes, stamps, post boxes, postal workers, sorting offices, mail vans, mail trains and planes) all these and more are replaced (in part at least) by the various functions of 'the mobile' as we call it (for want, in our inherited language, of a name more appropriate to such a complex extension of ourselves and nervous systems).

A 'side effect' most interesting (and ... unexpected by the engineers and others who developed 'cell phones' and 'car phones' as work tools for management and business) is text messaging - with its improvisation of the letters in a phone pad for writing brief messages... and the rapid invention, and learning, of a sub-language of abbreviations: for instance...

AFAIK (as far as i know) NO1 (no one) person invented (INVTD ?) it...

...TXT MSGNG (?) arose, in the spontaneous collective manner of any language - a marvellous precedent, it seems to me, for developments of any kind in this our post-industrial living!

Thank goodness for everything (or EVTHNG ?) at this historical moment when much of what is happening is perceived as disastrous or even evil... in the old language of hierarchy, competition, diminishment, dualism etc.

Today is March 1st - the day of St David of Wales... His last utterance was something like 'pay att*ention to the little things'... And this is the anniversary of the day in 2001 when i began the digital diary... or am i remembering incorrectly?

*at this point the handheld stopped as i had reached the limit for a diary entry.

2 march 2005,
13:15 As i slowly change words and add others to this less than spontaneous piece of writing i feel myself falling back into the habits of writing and correcting 'for publication' as we used to call it... but today, in or on this my 'public writing place', i feel the need to write this footnote, at least, in or as the flow of thoughts written as they happen without knowing what is coming and not needing any change, only augmentation, perhaps?... I'm writing this directly on the desktop computer - i drafted those thoughts above about the mobile phone (and on the handheld) many hours after the events that provoked them... but what is happening now (besides writing this paragraph)?...

...Only the cold grey sky that i see from my window, the sight of my cooling cup of tea, the dryness of my fingers (time to rub in some skin cream?) and the thought of having lunch... but before that i'll look to see if there are any emails:

'no new mail' is the message i hardly look at on the screen... and if i do not acknowledge it a voice says :

'you have no new mail'

...who was that speaking? ...and now i go to heat some soup...and am eating it as i re-read this text and add even more words to augment or clarify this entry that i want to put on line as soon as possible... but first to rub on some skin cream and do some banking by telephone...

(these pages are designed to be read with the window set to two-thirds of the screen width)

what's new



daffodil email newsletter

© 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 john chris jones

You may transmit this text to anyone for any non-commercial purpose if you include the copyright line and this notice and if you respect the copyright of quotations.

If you wish to reproduce any of this text commercially please send a copyright permission request to jcj at