The introduction of smartphones has moved the typical ‘private media space’ experience into a public one. “These mobile devices bring the public into the private and the private into the public.” says Jeffery Klenotic.We are now able to watch tv on the train, stream music as we walk down the street and see where everyone else is while we eat out at a restaurant.
Last week as I spent the day in the city of Sydney I observed individual media practice and explored how the principles of media use have become ignored as mobile devices become more prominent. It was at one point I was in a Chinese restaurant with my friend and we were discussing random topics, neither of us having used our phones since we entered the restaurant because we both strongly believe that occasionally we need to talk without distraction and really ‘be’ in the space. But as I glanced to my left I noticed a table with about 6 people, all of which were on their phones, involved in their own separate ‘media space’ it was even at one stage where one person tried to talk but got no response due the attention of her friends being on their phones. It was shocking to see that traditional values of the ‘dinner table discussion’ and socialising had been made irrelevant by access to one device.
Later on that day as my friend and I sat on a park bench to wait for his siblings to arrive, we ran out of things to talk about and immediately went onto our phones for something to do, I looked up and saw my friend watching a video on his phone and a lady behind him also using her phone as she ate lunch by herself.
The photo I took really illustrates the two dimensions of using a phone in a public space. On one hand, the lady in the background is alone and using the phone to provide a form of company “I like to use my phone because I get lonely and it helps make the time go quicker on my lunch break. Sometimes I skype my family overseas” she stated when I asked her why she likes to use her phone in this space. But on the other hand was the use of the phone by my friend, who had company, but was using the phone because the company wasn’t ‘providing enough’. If he didn’t have a phone or it had gone flat, I had to wonder whether communication would have developed because we were persuaded to rather than taking the ‘easy way out’. When I asked him “how can we manage the pressures and opportunities of passing time in public spaces, and have it still retain the ethical principles of these spaces” he replied with “ well, right now I think using a phone is fine, because if you spoke to me I would immediately put the phone down, but say we were In a church and I wanted to ‘pass the time’ I don’t think it would be respectful to pull out my phone and use it, that public space has its own common principles and I don’t think a phone fits into that”.
When I asked him “how can we manage the pressures and opportunities of passing time in public spaces, and have it still retain the ethical principles of these spaces” he replied with “ well, right now I think using a phone is fine, because if you spoke to me I would immediately put the phone down, but say we were In a church and I wanted to ‘pass the time’ I don’t think it would be respectful to pull out my phone and use it, that public space has its own common principles and I don’t think a phone fits into that”.
Just before I took the photo of these two people I had also had to think about the ethics of taking the photo in a public space, firstly I had to check with the stranger I photographed to make sure she was okay with me taking her photo and using it for my blog site, I also furthered to inform her of the content of the blog, which thankfully she had no issue with being involved. As well as this I had a few people in the background of the picture which I had to chase down and ask for permission to use their photograph, which they too were fine with. And finally when thinking about this blog I wanted to photograph and frame a stranger is a positive light rather than a negative one to ensure I was generating any bad feedback.
Overall it was interesting to go out into the public space and consciously watch people in public practise different media usage, and how the introduction of the mobile device has changed the dynamics of interaction between people, both good and bad.
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Klenotic, J. (2016). How the Use of Mobile Devices has Altered How We Relate to Public Spaces. [online] pp.5-11. Available at: http://scholars.unh.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1023&context=urc [Accessed 2 Oct. 2017].
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