I have been an Android user since December 2009. Since then I have owned the Droid Eris, Droid Bionic and the Droid Razr M. I got the Razr M few weeks ago and it’s a great phone. Prior to the Razr M, though, I was (it feels really weird and confessional saying this) a Blackberry user.
Why? I lost the Bionic while out with colleagues 7 months ago. Somehow I left my phone in a cab and didn’t realize till the next morning. Rather than paying full price for a phone or buying one second hand, I suspended my service for a month. At the end of the my month long non-smartphone experiment a friend let me borrow her old Blackberry.
The Blackberry and I never got along. Trying to send my first text message was frustrating. Launching the texting app and selecting a recipient were straightforward tasks, but sending the message was frustrating. I tried pressing the “Return” button on the keyboard. Nothing. I tried pressing the trackball. Nothing. I couldn’t figure it out. At that point, I seriously considered downgrading to my old flip phone and forfeiting my unlimited data.
But I held off. It turns out the menu button drives the Blackberry experience. All the actions or tasks one is likely to do are hidden within the system menu. Since this was my first Blackberry device I knew none of this. A former Blackberry user saw what was going on and taught me how to send a text message. It was bad.
There were some benefits, though. My overall mobile usage patterns changed. I stopped texting because it was frustrating. Browsing the web on the device was crappy, so didn’t do that. I had no interested in applications, so, I didn’t download any. I didn’t setup my email accounts either. The phone was simply a phone.
I then began thinking about my experience with the phone and, by extension, communication. I became fascinated with a question: what is the fundamental essence of modern communication? From a quantitative perspective, Claude Shannon presented the “How” of communication pretty effectively.
Shannon’s explanation was so well argued and fundamental that his theory pretty much informs the qualitative perspective as well. But, there’s something to be said about the following observation: I used communication tools less and I ended up feeling more connected with others.
There’s a certain qualitative experience (or consciousness) that defies formulaic representation. Formulaic representation enables powerful devices to encode, transfer, and replicate a the contents of a communication.
It is important to understand that process, the systems that enable communication, and the limitations or problems of those systems. Jaron Lanier, Nicholas Carr, Sherry Turkel, and slow web folks have attempted to address these issues.
Here are my two cents: it’s not clear what all of this communicating we do actually means. Does it mean anything or, more fundamentally, should it? I think it should. Lastly, if you believe we attach value to our communications then what governs that value? Narcissism? Sentimentality? I don’t know, but I’ll get back to you.