Critical Approaches to Culture + Communications

A Weblog by Ron Burnett (Founded in 1994 and now celebrating 23 Years!!)

This site began as one of the first academic sites in Canada when the World Wide Web was in its early phase of development. I have maintained it through many iterations since 1994.

Phones and the Unconscious

So....I ended up without my phone for two hours during the working day. It needed to have its battery replaced. I noticed that I became very agitated. I wanted to hold it and kept feeling for it in my jacket. Then I realized that I was wandering, waiting for phone calls from work, trying to contact people and more. I perceived everyone else with a phone. In fact, no one in the mall was sitting and staring into space. They were all hunched over searching or connecting or even just playing. Their hands were occupied. Their minds were occupied and I understood for the first time how their consciousness had changed.

Finally, I went to an iPad in the Apple Store and connected to my work email. No relief. It was a strange feeling as if a part of me was missing. Now, there has been a great deal of comment about how dependent we have become on connectivity and knowing that a call to family or friends can be made at anytime, and knowing that information or directions or people can be accessed instantly. But, I think that this immersion also means that we are living unconsciously. What do I mean?

If you believe that the mind is a distributed network, then what happens when perception is dominated by the pursuit of information and connection? Does this end up constraining and limiting what we are thinking and the range of our thoughts? If the activities of daydreaming disappear or are replaced by "phone focus" (a phrase I have invented to describe what I am struggling with) what are the implications for speculative and rigorous reasoning? These are, I think, difficult questions. Today I felt as if I needed to find some answers.