Tuesday, August 11, 2009

nomo phobia

Anyone noticed that the number of zombies increased with the uptake of cell phones?
Personally I havent met any greater numbers of young walking dead than elderly or middle aged walking dead, and i do not accept that this is due to an absence of my observation skills. I've taken a great interest in mobile phone use, particularly texting and cant say that it has increased the zombie population.
I do appreciate that there are people young and otherwise who are seriously attached to their cell phones. According to Chipman, a cell phone is the third most likely thing to be picked up on leaving the house (after a wallet and keys).
But I think that pathologising the attachement would be a bit like saying those who lock there houses (something my mum and dad did not do) are paranoid. I dont see that there is really a psychological problem here.
The projection that because others (read young people) act differently in terms of their connectability, is pathological has gained currency with the media. Research by Sherry Turkle gets reported so often I am tempted to turn off my google alerts on her name following the May, New York Times interview. At least she had suggested, tentatively, that it 'may' cause a shift in the way they develop. Well yes, it may. The same article cited another psychologist saying it also has potential for benefit. This doesnt get repeated. Nor does it get repeated where it said its too early to tell.

Seems demonising sells papers, but its not possible to trace 'the research' behind the suppositions. There are articles oft repeated in papers, and there are interviews with people with an interest in such things such as Sherry Turkle. But the evidence is more anecdotal and tentative than gets repeated in the media. In Sherry Turkle's publications at the MIT website, there is no research evidence demonstrating increased cases of developmental delay. What is present is speculation on possibilities, on how people are shaping their interactions and being shpaed inside of those interactions.

That others act differently does not indicate a change in physiology. There is no new form of psychiatric illness, there is no cell phone induced developmental delay. There is no measurable alteration in electrical wiring nor in chemistry.

The capacity to be connected by cell phone provides an avenue to do what has always been done, differently, and differently creates differences. But the differences worth studying may well be the other things happening concurrently ; We might want to look at other factors impacting on young people in terms of how tethered they might be to their parents...increasing debt secondary to the costs of study also significantly impacts on independence.

We are facing change, and it is worth looking at. Should we reject Turkle’s work and refuse to accept the suggestions of emotional developmental delay completely? Perversely, I say no. Latour quoting Kant says “It is not enough to show that something is an illusion we also need to understand why the illusion is necessary.”
There's something in this that suggests change is newsworthy, but is extra newsworthy when its frightening or provocative. In emphasising supposed difference, and in making technology the source of difference, anxieties are provoked that can help the 'rest of us' feel comfortable. What might occur if we were to take away this excuse for our anxieties? We might have to start accepting the needs young people have for feeling connected, we might stop blaming them and look at ourselves.

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