Are you nomophobic?

June 24, 2012

According to a recent Mobile Mindset study by Lookout, it’s likely you are.

Nomophobia (noun): Fear of being out of mobile phone contact.

Let it go, young jedi. Let it go…

Yes, we’ve become a nation of mobile addicts. A truth indicative of the times after an unfathomable recent surge in mobile adoption and usage – something I myself didn’t fully appreciate until my mother recently (and proudly) proclaimed she was ready for a smart phone. That, my friends, is a milestone.

But this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to many of us, as one of the most obvious indicators of the changing tides has been our increasing reliance and attachment to our portable devices. Our trusty side-kicks, our partners in the Smartphone Revolution, as they say. This same study found 3 out of 5 Americans don’t go more than an hour without checking their phones. A single hour… shame on us.

And with this attachment, comes fear. A new type of fear and anxiety, wholly man-made, wholly new to our species. One that didn’t exist before and one that we increasingly feel the weight of. Some go so far to claim that nomophobia is now the most common fear on the planet (thank you, England).

Through mobile, we have reached an unprecedented level of connectivity with the world around us. It’s people, it’s places, it’s things, and all of the information in it. Sometimes, for the better (navigating, emergencies, changing plans, getting time-sensitive answers, in-context discovery, general accessibility). Sometimes, for the worse (distractions, general over-dependence, information overload, constant contact). So should we celebrate our technological triumph of creating so much more than the portable ears (a term coin by Jaron Lanier) cell-phones were once designed to become? Or mourn our hyper-connected state, remaining terrified of what the future will bring and what we’ll sacrifice to get there. It’s a complicated question, one on the periphery of philosophy and ethics as much as technology, and the answer isn’t so clear.

But at least we can acknowledge where we are today. We can accept that mobile isn’t going away. We can embrace this new era and continue to design the brightest future we can fathom, making the most of this new high-powered medium and steering it forward on a path that’s pure and true.

And in the meantime, fight the nomophobia. Face the fear, and combat it head on. Start by giving yourself a phone-free weekend once or twice a year – a refreshing blast into the past. A reminder that you can live free from connection, that you are strong enough to resist mobiles powerful pull, that you can unplug – if only temporarily. Tell your friends and family to do the same. One by one we can fight this, but only together can we defeat it. Or so we can hope.

For much more on the mobile movement and the design-related implications of our increasingly-connected world, check out LukeW‘s latest short-but-insightful book, Mobile First. A fine read, chalk-full of tactical advice for UX practitioners and philosophical advice for product owners and managers, all while grounded in some staggering statistics speaking to the mobile boom.


2-0-1-2 … LIFT-OFF!!!

January 11, 2012
Tired of not being able to fly into space for under a million bucks? Of course you are. Not to worry though. This year several companies are slated to start offering trips just beyond the space barrier for far cheaper than ever before… A form of “affordable” space tourism with tickets in the $100,00-200,000 range.

What will this new form of tourism do for fashion? Time (and space) will tell.

Trips won’t exactly get you to Mars — or Neptune, which would be so much cooler — but will include “up-and-down ‘suborbital’ jaunts more akin to a giant roller coaster ride, offering about five minutes of weightlessness”.

And this is only the beginning. Quoting the New York Times article, “By 2017, it’ll be just like scheduling a flight to L.A.,” one galactic travel agent predicted. “In California, it would be similar to buying a house.”  Unsettling California comparisons aside, this is a big deal, by any measure. Space vacations! A breakthrough that will stand apart from the more earthly trends in technology this year.

So a belated Happy New Year, friends. Barring the apocalypse, 2012 is bound to be a big one. Can’t you just feel it?

7 Thousand Million Users!

November 27, 2011

Seven B-I-L-L-I-O-N.  For you “I’m-not-a-numbers-person” people, that’s seven with nine zeros behind it. The estimated number of humans alive as of October 31, 2011. And by the time you read this, there’s more. A bunch more.

A big number for designers and those we design for. A big number for our planet. Let’s call this a milestone.

…Aaand cue the video. (A nice piece of information design itself, care of the always-insightful NPR.)

King of the Signs

November 3, 2011
Tower of London

"Castle. That way."

Found … outside the Tower of London (England). Pointing to … the Tower of London (England).

It’s elegant. It’s helpful. It’s honest. It’s the greatest sign ever made.


Ring ring, the Phone Call is Ill

August 27, 2011

“Are you sitting down? Okay good.”

Remember the days before phones were so damn portable? Remember the phone call? The real ones, the long ones. All those hours spent sitting, receiver to the face, talking away our demons into the curved plastic, twirling the chord with the left hand. We now live in a world where we’re attached to those little boxes called cells, where every incoming text, email, vibration, or chirp of a ring further muddles the memories of our unplugged past.

Check out this thoughtful and succinct take on The Death of the Phone Call from Wired’s Clive Thompson. He pays respect to the fading behavior while making a good case for a redesign of the phone call itself. He asserts the ‘constant lightweight contact’ we’re all engulfed by is contributing to the Phone Call’s death, which are emotionally more high-bandwidth. You may have noticed.

But does the phone call really deserve to die, as Mr. Thompson claims? It may be ill. Very ill. But there’s still time for it to be turned around. There’s part of me — part of most of us I’m sure — that still loves the call. That moment of excitement upon hearing the ring — not knowing who or what the other end will bring. The Phone Call still has its moments, given the right time, the right place, the right voice on the other line. But if it does go, R.I.P. phone call. You’ve had a glorious run.

(Note: The Wired article is over a year old. But sometimes magazines fall behind the couch. Sometimes they are discovered and read some 15 months later. And sometimes, even in the rapidly-changing world of consumer technology, articles age well. It happens.)

The Great Summer Shake Up

August 21, 2011

In fortunate parts of the world, summer often goes hand in hand with rest, travel, introspection, and micheladas. For some, summer brings a dizzying array of new experiences, connections, and insights. For others, it is a big reset. A step back towards our natural beginnings in those hot, muggy environments we all came from (whether that be the womb or the tropical climates where we evolved as a species). For many, summer is all about change.

Big change. Small change. Change.

However you slice it, the time has come for the Infinite User to change. Maybe it wasn’t the season alone. Maybe it that was that fateful weekend I watched all three installments of The Matrix (which are far better on DVR with the power of the rewind, by the way). Or that fine summer read, a good story can shake things up. Or shark week. Blame shark week.

Sign in London, England

Now *thats* a Construction sign -- banged up good.

A new era is upon us. And this weblog. One of opening in the gates and letting in the sun. Sharing faster. More insights, less delay. Posting, rampant posting. There is a time for the insightful thought piece. And these will come. But we have been catapulted into the era of the short attention span. It’s a glorious world out there, and it must be broken down. With more lessons and fewer words.

So with that, in the spirit of construction, change, progress, and summer — I’ll kick it off with a sign spotted in the bustling heart of London, England. A Construction sign. You’ll notice it actually has no words. But it does have a silhouette with a shovel. And wear and tear. A lot of it. It’s a gritty sign. A seasoned sign. One with character. One that tells a story and fulfills its purpose without using a single word. One that sends a message arguably better than its fresh-off-the-press counter-parts. There’s a lesson in there, go find it. And go to Europe too. Good food, cool buildings.

Stay tuned for more. (Much more.)

You’ve Got Mailbox

November 24, 2009

More interesting than your typical flower pot holder.

Walked by this the other day, had to look twice before seeing the mailbox underneath all the plants. How symbolic of the world we live in today. These things used to be superstars, the ultimate hubs for communication and information sharing all over the world. But no longer. At least in the information-sharing sense, real mail is dwindling, rapidly becoming a relic of the past.. though in this case, at least we got some nice urban decoration. Let’s make sure we’re pointing these things out to our children and grandchildren while they’re still around, before museums and junkyards will be the only places left where we’ll find them. Just sayin’.