Judging the Guy with the Blackberry

An inter­est­ing moral­ity is devel­op­ing around the pub­lic use of mobile tech­nol­ogy: There is an indi­vid­ual, madly typ­ing into their small elec­tronic device, seem­ingly aloof to every­thing around them. Are they dis­con­nected from the real world? Are they miss­ing out on human con­tact with their imme­di­ate real­ity? And here’s the emo­tional jugu­lar: does their use of said dig­i­tal device dis­tance them from their fam­ily and loved ones? Does it rewire their rela­tion­ship to the present?

I’m not really con­cerned with the answers to those ques­tions at the moment. My ques­tion is this: why doesn’t the per­son sit­ting in a park read­ing a book get sub­jected to the same mor­al­iza­tion as the guy check­ing his email? Peo­ple have stood on side­walks read­ing news­pa­pers for decades…what’s the big deal with stand­ing on the side­walk with a dig­i­tal device?

Yes, tech­nol­ogy always dri­ves changes in human behav­ior, but the “change” hap­pen­ing now is actu­ally but a very small adap­ta­tion to the seis­mic inven­tion that fun­da­men­tally changed human inter­ac­tion in pub­lic spaces: the print­ing press. Unless you want to ban the read­ing of books in pub­lic, quit judg­ing the teenagers sit­ting in the mall tex­ting each other.

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