Saturday, January 24, 2015

MY smart phone rant

As a Sound Engineer for musical theater, I already had reason to hate the new smart phones and similar devices. Their market is so much more powerful, chunk after chunk of the ever-shrinking bandwidth needed for wireless microphones is going there as the spineless FCC follows every other Federal agency burdened with "protecting" a natural resource.

And in my opinion, this is a bad trade-off. If you want to watch a movie on your phone, you can transfer the file at home, using a wire or available pipe. You don't have to have a unique media pipeline -- because there is no option for the actor in a musical to reach the sound board with their voice. There's no equivalent of a flash drive for them. It has to be real-time streaming or the musical is going to sound very, very strange.

But I've been riding BART and Muni a lot this week, and I'm seeing something new. I'm seeing a lot of people who are crammed into too-small seats on the lurching cars of crowded trains, and you can't do creative work in that kind of condition. You can barely concentrate enough to read a book. So it makes sense that all these people (a good two out of three, at least to my jaundiced eye) are on their smart phones. And the ones I can see over the shoulder are browsing forums or flipping through music, listening to a couple seconds then skipping to something else. Bandwidth city.

Oh, there's a few who are texting. A few probably posting to forums. And I've met them, both at work where some of my bosses and co-workers have sent replies from whatever transit nexus or automobile or dinner date or other meeting they are at.

And you know what? As content, those texts suck. I almost never get a useful answer for the work that needs to be happening. Between the limitations of the texting format and the much greater limitations of the situation (and the implicit belief in multi-tasking behind it), the information content ranges from minimal to negative. I can not BEGIN to list how many times we've wasted hours hanging lights only for Mr Too Busy To Do Anything But Send a Text to finally breeze in only to declare "That's not what I thought we were saying at all!"

Same for forum posts. There's a buttload of the content now on the interwebs that is feel good and metwo posts. And this is why. People who aren't in a position where they can be analytical, but still want to contribute. And we've constructed this social media edifice that claims that every meandering self-indulgent blog is Worthy and every fly-by night posting actually adds something to human knowledge.

I spit on these phones. Because they aren't constructed for creative work. Not deep, meaningful work. They are constructed for the illusion of work, while they do their best to suck you in to a care-free life of consume, consume, consume. They are the tools and vanguard of a movement to retake the Internet and move as many as possible back to the model of one licensed creator to ten thousands grub-like consumers (but with plentiful cash in hand).

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