Phoning home

22nd October 2013 by

It was that time. To upgrade or not to upgrade. That was my predicament.  And I admit this with a heavy heart – I did it. I upgraded.  It’s a pressurised and tricky world out there.  Even before I was eligible for an upgrade, my phone provider was texting (badgering) me everyday telling me what I could ‘get’!  Enough I thought.  And then my existing phone would cut out on me again.  It seemed like a never-ending cycle.

Pausing to reflect on it now, the mobile phone and all its bells and whistles has definitely sucked me in. I knew this deep down, it’s something I grapple with.  A few years ago, I was all about using older non-smart mobile phones to make phone calls.  Remember those days of batteries lasting a week?  Or how about our very own challenge to readers to downgrade your phone?  In my opinion I haven’t fared well with the dilemma between the internet as a tool and how too much choice makes a simple life impossible most of the time.  (See part I and II of our Mobiles, Social Media and Mindbending Technology blogs).

I digress.

So having upgraded thereby locking me into another contract with an unnamed large corporate mobile provider, I’ve got myself a new phone, and a bit of guilt. I’m already hatching a plan to wait it out and switch as soon as I can.  Having searched for alternatives, I’m pleased to report that there are a few options out there.

Most intriguing is The People’s Operator, a seemingly independent mobile operator which directs 10% of what you spend to a cause of your choice – at no cost to you. They also make the commitment to share 25% of their profits to help make things better.

Having done a quick survey around the office, another alternative is Giff Gaff which was built around the single principle of mutuality and is run by its members (ie those who use their service).  Members get rewarded for running parts of the business like answering questions in the community, getting new members or helping spread the word.

Both of the above work with SIM only which assumes you already have a phone.

For those looking for a phone, an intriguing concept is the Fairphone.  The story behind it is to change the way phones are made.  The Fairphone team sell their smart phone based on identifying where every part and mineral comes from so the consumer is aware of where each piece comes from. The phone is currently being sold online at €325.00.  One comment from our team here was that perhaps they could consider also producing a non-smart phone for those who have downgraded their technical lifestyle but we haven’t quite written to them about this yet.

Which leads me into the Apple debate and the constant hype of when the next phone is coming out.  I found this article “Apple offers 21st Century technology – with 19th Century ethics” entertaining.  Needless to say, although I’m a smart phone user I haven’t been sucked into the void just quite yet.

And finally, in my research I was very pleased to see that Friends of the Earth have a Make It Better Campaign all about improving the way our products are made.  They’re calling for tough new rules to make companies come clean about the full impact of their products – whether they are smartphones, chocolates or tea.

All in all, I wonder if the next time your phone breaks or your contract’s up, will you re-think the way you phone home?

Mobiles, social media and mindbending technology- Part I

3rd February 2011 by

Anyone who’s ever met me will know that I am not a fan of mobile phones or anything beginning with i. I have a mobile and am as reliant as the next person on the internet. But I don’t like it. I wish all this information was in my head and not stored as bookmarks on my screen, I wish I could organise my life with people and not with my inbox. The problem with the internet and our constant connectivity is that, whilst it makes everything possible all the time, too much choice makes a simple life impossible most of the time.

Right now as I type I have seven tabs open on my screen, half of these are things that I am in the middle of reading. Everytime I pause for thought, instead of staring at the wall, I check my emails. This is arguably more productive than staring at the wall but I don’t think it’s helping my thought processes. Some days I find it really hard to read an entire article in one go.

I am clearly not the only one finding my concentration span disintegrating under a barrage of information. A friend confessed this week to checking emails in her lectures. Almost every conversation with friends involves some fact or figure being checked on someone’s i-phone, or being treated to photos of what someone else had for breakfast. Why do you even need maps anymore when the world wide web’s worth of information is all in your pocket? Because I like maps and I reckon lots of other people do to, otherwise why do people keep hanging them on the wall?

I am really really glad that I did not grow up with this much technology constantly vying for my attention. The advent of mobile phones has done more harm to education than a bulldozer in a public woodland. My experience working in schools and colleges is that some young people are umbilically attached to their phones, they would rather you remove their thumbs than their texting technology and, whether talking to peers or adults, cannot hold a conversation without their own personal soundtrack piped into one ear. At least when we wrote notes we were also practising handwriting, spelling and grammar. I’m sure some schools have managed to successfully ban phones from the classroom, but these handy pocket devices are just that and so they will always sneak their way back in. Now every young person has one it’s only a matter of time until technology mimics life with a Passing Notes App, a GCSE Cheat App and a The Dog Ate It App.

I’m not the only one concerned about all the the constant ringing, tweeting and flickering that’s interrupting our lives. The New York Times has written lots about how the internet is changing our brains. “Technology is rewiring our brains,” says Nora Volkow, one of the world’s leading brain scientists. Constant bursts of information are not just disrupting in themselves, they’re undermining our ability to focus even when we’re not online.

Whatever the effect of technology on our brains, it will be heightened in the young people who grow up without knowing what it’s like to wait for a roll of camera film to be developed, what it means to make someone a mix tape and what socialising is without social media.


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