Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Excuse me, Your Pocket Watch is Ringing..

In Constant Touch: a global history of the mobile phone, Jon Agar makes the case for the similarities between the development of the pocket watch and fixed international time zones with the development of cell phones and the ability to roam.

While it might have felt like liberation from tradition, the owner was caught anew in a more modern rationality, for, despite the fact that the pocket watch gave the owner personal access to exact time, accuracy depended on being-part of a system. If the owner was unwilling personally to make regular astronomical observations, the pocket watch would still have to be reset every ‘now‘ and then from the town clock.

In this quote he points out that taking on this new device (the watch) brought with it duties, responsibilities, and tasks that you didn’t have before. One of the aspects of technology that really interests me is the lack of awareness of repercussions we have when we take on these devices. I have met many people in my lifetime (both before and after the cell phone) that consciously chose not to wear a wrist watch because of the demands it put on their psyche. The conscious denial of time, unloading the burden of knowing the exact time, casting off the shackles of the clock - it all signified to me that the person was a free thinker, a non-conformist, someone who refused to take on all the orderly requirements of a schedule. Now you really don’t need to wear a wrist watch because the cell phone has become our new pocket watch. Will we be told by our non-conformist friends, that they don’t carry a cell phone because of the pressure it puts on their freedom?

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