My own curiosity falls into, what one may call, a peculiar dichotomy. I know that one world can only exist at one time, yet I try to live, or at least imagine, both. And as I wander about, fulfilling my agenda, doing the things which need doing for that day, I find myself devising a world without the one I am in. A planet wherein the people, for whichever reason, never invented the cell phone. Ah, the cell phone. Perhaps I'll be at work, or maybe on a Skytrain heading to class; retracing human history, trying to find the origin of the problem. And quite often, as I get close to the part when I realize the fundamental issue, my own cell phone will buzz. "Ah," I'll think, "it's my mom." Texting me that is. The fundamental problem though, is capitalism, not my mom. This bothers me in ways that I struggle to describe. This frustration boils longer with the sheer contradiction found in my own participation. I use my phone. Often. Yet I hate it. Click clack, snip snap. Chit chat, flick tap. Eyes glued, necks hung-its the modern zombie apocalypse.
We need them. We
truly do. They unlock so much more than what we need but at the very least we need unlimited Canada-wide calling and texting, right?
need to buy the latest ones:
"I need the Samsung 1200 or the iPhone 2-Paycheques. Why? Because I just need it."
And as we continue to need them, we continue to become one with them. They are a part of us, a part of our identities. Cell phones find ways to replace our humanly-filled desires. Connection, attention, affection, and forget them. Cell phones give us
genuine forms of all of that, and more.
Should I not be sad that my phone scans my eyes more than my lover does? Because I am sad about that. You should be too. These phones demand our attention so often that we forget they are just toys. They become our vision in front of us. It is now normal for us to flip-tap and click-snap instead of creating bonds with the folks beside us.
Cell phones are a window into a world of brand-new needs with more price tags. Our eyes get lost in a "tailored experience" maze of advertisements. Flick. Next page. More ads. Phones: Top-ranking spies puppeteered by the invisible hand. Collecting anything they can from us to move our capital. Phones themselves have become a need, yes. They also create new needs with their intended ability to make large companies more money. They impose a culture of product obsession in all forms by peering into our choices to present us options that we pre-emptively desire.
The meticulous type of effort put forth into the production of an online self-image could very well be spent on adding true value to one's own physical life. Yet, the world in front of us is losing to the one in our hands. Social networks devised with our fingertips replace the inherent need for community. Dysphoric aftermath between what is real and not. Are you my friend or my friend? Since when was there a difference. Furthermore, these fingertip-social networks are now intertwined with markets as if they were always meant to be synonymous. Ads on Facebook? Well of course. Zuck has our faces, information, and choices on sale.
Cell phones are bullet trains to the dystopian world of fulfilled desires. They see a decline of patience as a standard virtue to make room for needing things now. Which is fine, some might argue. If we can get things faster, then why not? It is troubling, however, regardless of how easy things are. The simplicity of it all promotes a culture of demand which translates into a particular way of thinking. This way of thinking, one where that which we "need" can be accessed within moments, reinforces production-consumption relationships on all scales. The temporal aspect of this demand is a specialty of the cell phone. Just how quick can one get what they are looking for? What are the dangers around that? These are important questions in a world where large corporations want faster and faster cash flow.
Last but not least is the shelf-life of these things. Two to three years. Just in time for the over inflated next version that we suddenly need to buy. Planned obsolescence made possible by the "dire necessity" of the device itself.
I have been fairly harsh on cell phones, and also generally assumptive in terms of how people are using them. Yet, as a user and witness of how these devices can manipulate our thoughts, feelings, and responses to ongoing phenomena, they are worth being heavily critical of.
Capitalist culture is pillared by advertising, restructuring, transforming spaces, and promulgating capital-forward values. Cell phones, then, would seem to be the most remarkable embodiment and actor of these pillars. Cell phones are all of promoters, reinforcers, and products of capitalist culture. They pave the way for both capital and capitalist ideas to flow freely from and between our minds, social networks, and corporations.