The Cell Phone

I’m book-flitting and found an interesting title at the library on technology and culture called Information Ecologies by Bonnie Nardi and Vicki O’Day. They bring both software design and anthropology to the task, and are interested in splitting the baby between luddites and technoenthusiasts. This is an approach that interests me.

The fundamental question they are posing is this: Given technology’s presence in our lives, how can we best bend it to our will rather than bending to its. This question is central to the familial revolution triggered by our acquisition of two mobile telephones. I have resisted this for a long time, been dismissive of it, argued repeatedly that I’ve never seen a need, nor wanted the tether that a phone implies. But our three lives have become a logistically complicated three-body problem, and we realized a few weeks ago that a cell phone could be an enabler and a solution rather than an ankle weight. Nora’s activities are multiplying – theater, several clubs at school, tennis – and giving her the ability to call us on the move from one to the next in order to coordinate transportation, food and other necessities seems like a practical value. And allowing Lissa to be untethered while still executing her self-imposed role of enabling Nora’s complex youth also seem like a practical value. So Nora and Lissa now have cell phones.

We’ll see how the experiment works.