iPhone therefore iDistracted

April 28th, 2011 by Dale Hobson

I was on vacation last week, and while I usually manage to get the Listening Post out during my off-time, sometimes circumstances intervene. In this case my downfall was visiting Boston, where they keep many things one would actually want to buy. Those of you familiar with my rants know that I am a reluctant cell phone user; until just recently I used mine exactly as if it had a rotary dial on the front and connected to a wire in the wall. But my family feels differently, and so we walked out of a Boston Verizon store with three brand new iPhones (along with a crushing new monthly financial burden).

Once out the door, I used it to guide me (the blue blob floating on the Google map) step by step to a good bookstore in the Downtown Crossing neighborhood while my wife and daughter shopped elsewhere. There were many like me out in the streets walking hunched over their screens, like those weird old dudes who sweep the beaches with metal detectors. If enough of us wander obliviously under city buses, within a few generations natural selection will no doubt provide the survivors with an extra eye on top of the head, or else iPhone will make an app for that.

While drinking coffee at the location selected by my search parameters "organic fair tade coffee," I started looking for all the cool apps that everyone evangelizes about, instead of talking about their kids.  So I got the Poetry App and the Facebook App and the Public Radio Player App and the eLumination app (which has strong retro appeal by flashing text messages across dark rooms via Morse Code) and a bunch of other apps that will consume whatever time I had remaining in my life for contemplation and prayer–or writing the newsletter on my off-time.

Listening Post blog barcodeOne of my favorites is the $.99 QuickMark App, which reads and writes bar codes. A barcode in Harvard Square on an event poster delivered a video of the band to my iPhone; one in a restaurant window delivered their menu and specials of the day. Cool. If you get your iPhone out now (you know you want to anyway) and scan the code here, it will deliver you to the home page of the Listening Post blog–unless you are reading this on your iPhone, and it can't take a picture of itself, or you are reading this on the home page of my blog, in which case it sends you back to where you already are.

But that's OK, because most new technology is about providing the illusion of motion and industriousness, without the actual effort or result.

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8 Responses to “iPhone therefore iDistracted”

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  1. Bob Falesch says:

    iDroid therefore iVoid.

  2. joe kling says:

    Nice work, Dale– amusing, ironic, informative– I do have a cell phone, but it does not connect to the Internet, and, as far as I can tell, does not download apps. It does make phone calls, and will take pictures if I want it to, but I am not sure which button to push to get it into camera mode.

    Anyway, again, nice work.

    joe kling
    listener, and NCPR fan

  3. Paul R. Sheppard says:

    I enjoyed your irony in your final sentence, Dale. Little "effort", little "result", and one might add, little "value", to oneself or to others. That's why I've reached my limits at a desktop, a laptop, a moderate use of net-surfing and an occasional net-purchase, and – oh yes, an e-reader, which by the way bores me and which I shall probably junk. No cell-phone of any type, no iPod, no iPad, no other portable personal electronics. When you and I were young, Maggie, in the 60's and 70's, it used to be cool to tune out and drop out. Now it is not. But so what? Enough of worship of the brass calf of gadgetry. Give me a book, or an honest-to-goodness flesh-and-blood person in front of me. Then I can have a genuine experience, one worth the "effort" and producing a "result".

  4. Nelly Case says:

    I just returned from a last-minute emergency kind of drive to Boston and back between 4 pm Tuesday and 10:30 pm Wed. (last night). As I was approaching the hotel Tuesday night and thinking about calling home to let my family know I had arrived safely, I realized I didn't even have the cell phone with me. It's something I only use when traveling anyway, but the rushed nature of the whole trip helped me to forget it altogether. The only time I really missed it ( used my credit card on the hotel phone) was in the Adirondacks between North Hudson and Rt. 11 after dark last night with deer around every bend and none too many houses for long stretches down the road. It was especially scary at the endless red light before the steel-deck bridge on Rt. 56. The memory of that utterly helpless and alone feeling will probably prevent me from going any such distance without the cell again. But otherwise I can live without it.

  5. Juanita McPherson says:

    I don't have a iPhone, but you made me laugh out loud. Thanks!

  6. Mark Holland says:

    This is how the world ends:
    Accidental barcode scan.

  7. Prue Posner says:

    Hi Dale,
    Definitely a step up from the basement at Canton College! Good work and very funny "blog".

  8. Julie Schauble says:

    Love your column, Dale. I'm a public broadcasting colleague from across the country but I always read your column because you are such a great writer.
    I was feeling like a dinosaur for having only an old-fashioned cell phone and desktop computer. This made me laugh and feel much better, and I had to share it with my friends.