Thursday, 5 March 2015


'IT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE', thundered a friend of mine on Twitter when I said something about finally getting a smartphone. I took the plunge in January, at last feeling I have enough spare cash - over a long enough time-frame - to make being able to keep up with a 24-month contract a safe bet. I looked forward to joining the truly modern part of the modern age, the edge where we're beginning to bleed into cyberpunk, the networked species.

And yet, here at the end of my first monthly billing cycle, I've used barely 2% of my 2GB data limit - 41.62MB, to be precise. Obviously, part of that is that I'm new to this device and don't really know what it can do, so I'm not yet using it for many of the things it could be.

That's comforting, but it's the minor part of this issue. The perspicuous truth is sadder; I'm simply not mobile enough, in my day-to-day life, to get much out of mobile computing. I spend the majority of my time within ten feet of a high-powered PC with a cabled connection to a fibre broadband router that gives me download speeds in the region of 9MB/s. When I'm out of the house, I'm walking to places, most of which are workplaces of one or other kind.

A mobile phone cannot change a stationary life. And while the extent to which I don't get out much is perhaps a bit disheartening, it's equally true that I get most of the things that other people do on their smartphones on my PC. Crucially, it's when I'm on my PC that I'm most connected to the rest of the world.

That's what really matters with mobile communications technology, after all - how much more communication it enables. Being romantic and optimistic, we could say it's how much closer together it brings us, the potential to blur the edges not just of communities but ultimately of individuals as well. Talking about the rise of analytic philosophy last week, I mentioned Leibniz; his philosophical system, the 'monadology', posits human minds/spirits as the building blocks of the universe, with space, time and everything that fills them emerging out of the phenomenal (sensory/felt) tensions between us. I've always liked that image as a way of thinking about humans in networks.

I feel that way even when I feel disconnected from those networks. And maybe that's where the greater sadness resides in my current situation (I realise, writing that, that this is all terribly self-pitying, so sorry, I guess). If I already have all the benefits of mobile technology - something I can't anymore deny - then I can't blame any disconnect on technological barriers anymore.

And indeed, I am trying to reach out more, to engage more, to communicate whether from my desk or my pocket. So while the smartphone itself isn't going to change my life, it might yet prompt me to make some changes.

If nothing else, I've been able to spend hours laughing at this game about an enormous, hilariously fragile fish.

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