Smartphones & TikTok & Quibi

I want to watch things on my phone…what’s wrong with that?

An anime from the Japanese TV series Dr. Stone. The cartoon character brandishes a smartphone.
TV anime series, Dr.Stone

Dear Ms. Smartphone: I am confused by your last post. Jacob, my boyfriend, asked you whether he should download the Quibi app to his phone. I like Quibi and recommended it. But you gave him a mouthful about Marshall McLuhan and using TikTok. I am not understanding. Too much time indoors? Aimee (girlfriend to Jacob, MV).

Dear Aimee: Apologies if I was unclear or did not give the answer you expected! I’ll try again:

When we download and then use an app we are choosing to hand-over our two most precious resources: our time and our attention. In digital matters we also give up privacy, something I stressed on with video ads.

That said, the most valuable thing we can do to seize back our Time, our Attention, and our Privacy is to become more of a producer, and less of a consumer. Imagine you had the tools to read words and numbers but lack the tools to write or draw. You miss half of the communications equation- the result is a one-sided, top-down state of information flow. It’s critical to both Read and Write!

Phones have been interactive from the time of Bell. We listen, we talk, and today we text. I cite McLuhan to suggest how different technologies ‘bake in’ different types of interaction. We love phones because they are an extension of ourselves and what we share. With smartphones we pass along memes, video and photography, recordings, and more.

Using our phones for one-way, TV like content like strikes me as a throw-back to older media, say cinema. If anything, more of us need to learn more about the editing and composition tools for images and video, as well as the inner-workings of our phone.

So, I’m not recommending that you start using TikTok. Tik-Tok is a teen-centric, easily dismissed beginning. I am told that it has a multitude of security issues. Some say that even Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook doesn’t see its potential. But, hidden in plain sight, is a nascent language that’s going to emerge.

We should strive to understand how algorithms monitor us; also, what makes some content, say daily memes, totally entertaining, and why do others seems totally repulsive. How do cuts and jumps in video production work and how do they change what we see or feel? We need to learn to identify when we are being spoofed and how to spoof others too. It’s all in our hands.

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