Smart phones connect us with every part in the world. We can be everywhere in the same moment. We can talk with many people contemporary. We can make an online research, listen to music and send messages in the same time. That’s almost incredible.
A study made at the University of Tel Aviv, pointed out that smart phone users conceive public space in a very different and unusual way. As the heads of this study Tali Hatuka and Eran Toch claimed:
The ubiquitous smart phone may even degrade the way we recognize, memorize and move through cities. It’s very interesting to see that some of the basic ideas of public spaces are conceived totally differently by smart-phone users
She and Toch interviewed both smart-phone and traditional cell-phone users, quizzing them about where, when and how they use phones and how they feel about the behavior of others. Smart-phone users are much more commonly under the illusion that they have privacy even when walking down a public sidewalk. They’re more detached from their physical surroundings and more likely to violate social norms about having disruptive, private phone conversations, without feeling guilty. So, smart-phone users are less aware about the distinction between private and public space.
The ubiquity of mobile phones in urban spaces enables new practices and ways for city-dwellers. One of the implications of this pervasive mobile presence, always on, always athand, and almost always in the hand, is the growing requirements to share one’s attention between two places and interactions, the mobile (conversation, texting, playing…) and theco-presence setting.
In his essay, the scholar Amparo Lasèn from the University of Madrid, reports the results of some interesting studies in Paris, Madrid and London about the use of smart-phones in public spaces such as museums and squares. What is worthy of attention is how the use and presence of technological devices can change the perception of public places, the practices carried out in such places, and the amount and kind of personal information given to strangers, such as the widespread unauthorised but accepted mobile phone use in public places. This is an example of a cross-national cities which claims the necessity of stuying these processes as a consequence of globalization itself.
We live in a world with more phones than people, as argued by the World Bank in its report. Nowadays, there are about 6 billion of mobile phones in the world and the count “will soon exceed that of the human population,” according to the report.
Too many smart phones, our life and relations with space are definitely changing. It is sufficient to glance at people around us in a public space such as train stations or waiting rooms. People do use their phones to keep in contact with other people or to look at their social media. Each person is a sort of microcosm together with its mobile phone. Putnam “Bowling alone” theory perfectly describes our behavior towards public space. We are alone together with our mobile, our ‘keitai’ as japanese people use to name it, which means ‘always with you’. It seems almost a threat, but this is exactly the truth.
We use to handle our mobile phones also when we are embarassed or annoyed, when we have to wait for someone or when we need some confort. A new best friend? Maybe.
“How smart phones are turning our public spaces into private ones”, Emily Badger, The Atlantic, http://www.citylab.com/tech/2012/05/how-smart-phones-are-turning-our-public-places-private-ones/2017/, [date of visit 5 September 2014]
“How to be in two places in the same time. Mobile Phones uses in Public Space”, Amparo Lasen, Mobile Communication in EverydayLife. Ethnographic Views, Observations and Reflections, Berlin, Frank & Timme,(pp.227-252)
World Bank Report, “Maximizing Mobile”, http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/EXTINFORMATIONANDCOMMUNICATIONANDTECHNOLOGIES/0,,contentMDK:23190786~pagePK:210058~piPK:210062~theSitePK:282823,00.html [date of visit 5 September 2014]