How to depict text messaging in film

Is there a better way of showing a text message in a film? How about the internet? Even though we’re well into the digital age, film is still ineffective at depicting the (digital) world we live in. Maybe the solution lies not in content, but in form.

Phone calls a thing of the past

Photo by Maggsinho

Photo by Maggsinho

The continuing decline of telephone culture: A recent Pew report showed that in 2012, 80 percent of cellphone users used their phones for texting; in 2007, just 58 percent did. In late 2007, according to Nielsen, monthly texts outpaced phone calls for the first time. Personally I seldom use the phone app. on my iPhone, any conversations, which are few, are done over Skype or Facetime.

As a freelance writer, I also have days, even busy ones, when I don’t speak a word aloud. Frequently, I conduct all professional and personal interactions by email or text from my apartment. A simulacrum of a bustling office is achieved by a quick survey of Facebook posts or Twitter messages.

Ten years ago, still in the social-media stone age of Friendster and not yet texting, I often talked to friends on the phone during the day, sometimes while walking or running errands.

Now, of course, hardly anyone calls, at least not without a pre-emptive “Are you free to talk?” text. Last month, I accidentally removed one of the bottom four primary buttons on my iPhone screen, and it took me a good five minutes to realize it was the “phone” function.

Work From Home? A Phone Call May Be a Rare Thing

Texting Your Feelings, Symbol by Symbol


To many of us, even those of us who have lived in a country heavily influenced by Japanese culture, Emoji – a colorful symbol alphabet that contains nearly a thousand images of cute animals, food items and expressive smiley faces can sometimes convey what words cannot – are a confusing mess of overly cute meaning that can often lead to miscommunication.

“In Japan, there was a similar, interesting moment when you started to see older folks and men start using these kind of cute aspects — these emoji — that originally came from middle-school girl, mobile-phone culture,” said Mimi Ito, a cultural anthropologist at the University of California, Irvine, who studies how young people use digital media in Asia and the United States. “Now, as emoji are seeing more adoption in the U.S., you’re seeing a form of communication being used that was clearly developed and marketed to a different demographic.”

Emoji date back to 1995, when people used pagers instead of smartphones and NTT DoCoMo, Japan’s biggest cellular phone operator, added a small heart icon to its pagers. The heart spread rapidly among Japanese teenagers because it allowed them to express an emotion that was almost impossible to portray in small snippets of text.

“We discovered that in the Asian culture, the expression on an emoji face isn’t necessarily what conveys emotion. It’s the context of where that face is located,” Mr. Marra said.

In Asian cultures, an emoji face in dark clouds would show that someone is sad and having a bad day. A face on a beach with the sun glaring means they are happy. In the United States, the emotion on the face tells the story, not the surroundings. Also, “stars for eyes could mean something completely different in Asia than using dots for eyes,” he said.

From Bits.

Will banning drivers from using cellphones reduce distraction?

Talking on cellphone while driving

Photo by philcampbell

A new law in Illinois has widespread support but it may not reduce crashes. The Chicago Tribune reports:

The role of cellphones in distracted driving remains as unclear as wireless phone signals in the hills and hollers. Some research suggests holding a cellphone to the ear creates the same level of distraction as using hands-free technology. Or that both versions have the same distraction level as being drunk. Or that crash rates remain the same with or without drivers using cellphones. Or that crashes decline in densely populated areas after handhelds are banned.

“We don’t really know the full answer” to the uncertainty over cellphones’ impact on driver distraction, said Russ Rader, spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, IIHS. “There is some conflicting evidence.”

The crucial point, Rader suggested, is that cellphones are only one distraction for drivers, who have their attention diverted by spilling or sipping coffee, gobbling a sandwich, fiddling with the radio, or daydreaming, among other activities. It’s been that way for decades, Rader and others note.

I prefer broad based driver education over enforcement; there are plenty of distractions while driving that lead to accidents. Lack of sleep and a particularly gripping podcast are my biggest weaknesses.

Hands-free cellphones for drivers may not be attention-getter

Can mobile technology cut poverty in rural China?

Mongolian mobile phone user

Photo by The Reboot

There is a need to explore ways to use innovative technology to leapfrog traditional barriers to bringing formal financial services to China’s large under-banked population. Despite the huge strides made in China to socially and economically include citizens and lift them out of poverty, roughly 36 percent of China’s population remains underserved by formal financial institutions, according to a 2011 World Bank study.

A primary reason that people – in China and worldwide – remain financially underserved is because it’s difficult for financial institutions to provide services such as bank branches in a business-sustainable way to remote and rural villages and towns.

Such populations miss out on the benefits of basic financial services, such as the ability to save and protect their money, use payment services and acquire credit and insurance. They also miss out on the security, reliability and convenience of electronic payments, such as credit, debit and prepaid cards that are linked to bank accounts.

They are left to conduct their day-to-day activities in cash.

But the advent of mobile technology has enabled new branchless banking solutions that can provide affordable services to the unbanked (economists call this “financial inclusion”) in areas traditional financial services have yet to penetrate.

As mobile use continues to rise, branchless banking solutions that use mobile money have emerged as a way to extend secure, convenient and affordable financial services to people outside the traditional banking system.

From the China Daily.

Young adults engage in day long conversations with their parents


Photo by by John Fraissinet

On computer and cellphone screens in workplaces across the country, many young employees keep up daylong conversations with their parents, sharing what the weather is like, what they ate for lunch or what the boss just said about their work. From the The Wall Street Journal:

The running chatter with Mom or Dad is possible for young adults in their 20s and early 30s because they are the first generation to hit the workforce with tech-savvy parents. Most baby boomers are using the same smartphones, tablets and laptops as their children, making daily communication with Mom easier and more open-ended than ever.

Chatting, or texting, is a subtler way to stay in touch from a cubicle than a phone call. As long as the computer’s sound effects are on mute, chatting is silent.

Regular chats, whether on the phone, by text or online, can bring parents and adult children closer, bridging long distances and keeping both sides up to speed. Too much, though, can get in the way of work, relationships and independent decision-making on both ends.

Messaging—instead of calling—their parents makes sense since, as a group, millennials aren’t big on talking on the phone. In recent years, customers in their 20s and 30s have gravitated to prepaid wireless plans offering minimal voice minutes but unlimited texting and data, cellphone-service providers say.

Fathers, of course, text and chat with their adult children. But most of millennials’ workplace chatting seems to occur with their mothers.

Read more.

Photography is shifting away from documentation to communication

Nilk Bilton writes for the New York Times on the disruption that the ubiquity that connected cameras are having on how we experience photography. “We’re tiptoeing into a potentially very deep and interesting new way of communicating,” said Mitchell Stephens. From the NYT:

Photos, once slices of a moment in the past — sunsets, meetings with friends, the family vacation — are fast becoming an entirely new type of dialogue. The cutting-edge crowd is learning that communicating with a simple image, be it a picture of what’s for dinner or a street sign that slyly indicates to a friend, “Hey, I’m waiting for you,” is easier than bothering with words, even in a world of hyper-abbreviated Twitter posts and texts.

“This is a watershed time where we are moving away from photography as a way of recording and storing a past moment,” said Robin Kelsey, a professor of photography at Harvard, and we are “turning photography into a communication medium.”

“You have images now that have no possible afterlife,” said Mr. Kelsey. “They are simply communicative.”

Read more.

Are Smartphones Changing Photography?

It has been almost 25 years since the first digital cameras were introduced to consumers, and 10 years since the number of camera phones eclipsed the number of stand-alone digital cameras sold worldwide. Is the prevalence of smartphones changing the way we take photos? I would reply unequivocally yes but GantDaily reports on a slightly different opinion:

“Image making and image transmission using cell phone cameras has become part of our popular culture,” she explains. Eastman Kodak company was founded in the late 19th century on the premise that cameras should be accessible and easy to use for a broad audience. According to Parizek, the early Kodak cameras “were not professional cameras and they were never meant to be. They were made for a different market than professional photographers. Smartphone cameras are made for that same popular audience, that same market.”

That immediacy is a big part of the appeal to smartphone users. “It’s not that people are ‘settling’ for smartphone photos. I think that it is more about accessibility and the ability to be connected to the world at any moment in time — as long as you have a signal,” Parizek says. “Since cell phones have become such an extension of our being, people have become addicted to carrying their phones with them everywhere they go, and image-taking and posting has become an extension of that experience.”

Parizek also points out that, because of smartphones, people take more photos. “The difference is, in the past, images cost something. Film was expensive and it had to be developed, which also cost something, so there was a worth associated with this process. For this reason, people thought a little more before they snapped a picture.”

Due to the reduced cost, the convenience and the ability to take massive amounts of pictures with one smartphone, photography is shifting from documentation to communication. When I see people taking thousands of photographs I often wonder what they do with all that data. In the era of film, one might have a few albums and a few shoe boxes at most. Now the equivalent might be a warehouse.

Read more.

Women own most of the tablets in the UK

iPad woman and plaintronics

Photo by plantronicsgermany

In the UK the introduction of the iPad Mini has helped drive the adoption of tablet computers among women in the UK, previously pollsters put the figure at 43%, now 52% of the country’s touchscreen computers are owned by women. The BBC reports:

The trend has also helped boost the number of 18-to-34-year-olds owning one of the touchscreen computers – they now account for 26% of the market, compared with 19% a year ago.

“The early adopters of tablets have typically been affluent males,” said John Gilbert, lead director at YouGov Technology and Telecoms.

“As they buy the latest models, they have placed their old devices on to the secondary market or given them to other members of their household.

“A growing number of females and under-35s own older tablets, such as the iPad 1 and 2 while affluent males have the more recent iPad 3 and 4 and Samsung devices.

“Add to this the fact that it is women and young people driving the popularity of iPad Mini in the UK and it is clear where the surge in tablet ownership among females and under-35s comes from.”

The survey also indicates that 22% of UK-based adults now own a tablet, and that 19% of non-tablet owners are “hot prospects” to buy one soon.

Read more.

Is your iPhone making you a wimp?

iPhone posture

What are our devices doing to us? We already know they’re snuffing our creativity–but new research suggests they’re also stifling our drive. How so? It’s because of the all-too-familiar hunches that smartphones and laptops engender in their users. And if you didn’t know, Americans spend 58 minutes a day fussing with their phones, and they’re talking on them only 26% of the time. I think about these issues allot but haven’t given much thought how our devices affect our demeanour (FastCompany).

Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are. Lots of great ideas can be gleaned from this video.

The body posture inherent in operating everyday gadgets affects not only your back, but your behavior. According to a new study by Maarten Bos and Amy Cuddy, operating a relatively large device inspires more assertive behavior than working on a small one.

“We won’t tell anyone not to interact with those devices just before doing something that requires any kind of assertiveness,” Bos says. “Mostly because people won’t listen: They will do it anyway. But if you realize that, ‘hmm, I’m pretty quiet during this meeting,’ then maybe you should pay attention to how devices impacted your body posture beforehand (HBS Working Knowledge).

Via textually.

Virtual Plastic Surgery Apps Come to China

Selfie app
China’s web developers have taken “selfies” to a whole new level. From The Atlantic:

Selfies, the young American term for self-portraits taken with a cell phone, just took a new turn in China. A new version of a recent Chinese smart phone app allows users to enhance photos of themselves by widening their eyes, lightening their skin or adding long eyelashes –in other words, attempts to look more Caucasian.

The app, called the “beautiful people camera,” or meiren xiangji, which was developed by Guangzhou-based photo sharing community and app maker POCO.CN, also allows users to remove bags from under their eyes, narrow their face, modify their smile and add anime-style makeup. Users can then post the photos to social media platforms such as Sina Weibo.

Read more.

The Dilemma of Being a Cyborg


“Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”
– T. S. Eliot

For everything that’s gained by our ability to store and maintain more information than ever before, something is lost that has to do with texture, context and association. The science journalist Joshua Foer, author of “Moonwalking With Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything,” said in a lecture to the Royal Society of Arts that people once “invested in their memories, they cultivated them. They studiously furnished their minds. They remembered. Today, of course, we’ve got books and computers and smartphones to hold our memories for us. We’ve outsourced our memories to external devices. The result is that we no longer trust our memories. We see every small, forgotten thing as evidence that they’re failing us altogether.” As we store more and more of what makes us us outside of ourselves, he said, “we’ve forgotten how to remember.”

Losing data is not the same as forgetting. It happens all at once, not gradually or imperceptibly, so it feels less like an unburdening than like a mugging. Similarly, accumulating data does not feel the same as gaining knowledge, experience or understanding.

Foer said, “What makes things memorable is that they are meaningful, significant, colorful.” Data is weightless and characterless and takes up very little space. The more of it we save, the more we lose the ability to differentiate it, to assign significance and meaning.

The Dilemma of Being a Cyborg

Smartphones are an extension of self

Smartphones used during sex
According to a study conducted last month by Harris Interactive for Jumio, a mobile verification and payments company, Amer­i­cans use their smart­phones just about everywhere including during sex, in the shower, and even while at church (no surprise there). The survey also found that 72% adults say they’re within 5 feet of their phone the majority of the time.

Of the 1,102 smartphone users asked the question “In which of the following places, if any, have you ever used your smartphone?”

9% said during sex
55% while driving (the survey didn’t separate texting from talking)
35% in a movie theater
33% during a dinner date
32% at a child’s school function
19% in church or a place of worship
12% while in the shower

But perhaps most unusual is the fact that almost 1 in 10 users, or 9% of respondents, said they have even used their smartphone during sex.

“So it should be no surprise that 12% believe their smartphone gets in the way of their relationships,” the press release for the study said.

“People view their smartphones as an extension of themselves, taking them everywhere they go – even the most unorthodox places — from the shower to their commute, from the dinner table to the bedroom,” said Marc Barach, chief marketing and strategy officer at Jumio, in a statement.

And for all those wondering, the study does not mention how exactly they are using their devices during sex.
LA Times

2013 Mobile Consumer Habits study

Smartphone usage leads to sedentary lifestyle

iPhone 3GS on couch

Photo by Science Daily reports on recent research results:

Barkley and Lepp were interested in the relationship between smartphones and fitness levels because, unlike the television, phones are small and portable, therefore making it possible to use them while doing physical activity. But what the researchers found was that despite the phone’s mobility, high use contributed to a sedentary lifestyle for some subjects.

More than 300 college students from the Midwest were surveyed on their cell phone usage and activity level. Of those students, 49 had their fitness level and body composition tested. The researchers’ results showed that students who spent large amounts of time on their cell phones — as much as 14 hours per day — were less fit than those who averaged a little more than 90 minutes of cell phone use daily.

I often wonder why causal-comparative research like this gets so much attention. Examining the behavioural quirks of someone who spends 14hrs a day using their iPhone seems far more interesting. It would seem obvious that if you used your mobile phone for 14 hrs a day your living a sedentary lifestyle.

Are smartphones making us insomniacs?

smartphones in bed

Photo by Stuff reports:

But one thing the internet has not given us is better sleep. A prominent Australian researcher warned that the light generated by backlit smartphones and tablets can mess with our body clocks. Professor Shantha Rajaratnam of Monash University says that the effect is worst when it’s shining close to our faces, which is precisely how we hold our phones and tablets.

While I gather some of the research underpinning this conclusion is fresh, I’ve been hearing this theory about our bodies interpreting screens as daylight for years. And I haven’t yet been successful in acting on it, even though I often have difficulty getting to sleep.

Read more.