Sunday, July 28, 2013

Alert: Mobile Technology Could Lead to Moments of Zen?

I didn't exactly expect a conference full of super energized mobile technology professionals, with enough gear expertise to send your head spinning off into space, to get me thinking about the potential uses of technology to  s   l   o   w      t   h   i   n   g   s     d   o   w   n.

Nonetheless, after a day spent at the MOB'dUP, (Mobile Design Uprising) conference, that is what I most can't stop thinking about. It all started with the keynote speaker, Josh Clark, the guy behind Global Moxie.
At first when he started talking, I was trying to figure out what the very faint trace of an accent was. East coast.... New York? Perhaps, as that is where he flew in from.

Then, launching into the power of mobile mobile mobile (it was the theme of the day after all), when Josh started talking about the ubiquity of mobile and said:

"The question is: How can we do MORE?" 

I found myself thinking: information overload! - more? we want more?? True, I was not only sleep deprived but trying to take photos of the guy, who never stopped moving, and trying to take notes, but the thought of sensing and transmitting devices chatting silently away from the fluorescent  bulbs over my head, or the potted palms lounging unobtrusively around the halls, or in your stomach lining - these things exist. Well, it was almost too much.

But, guess what? That was part of the point Josh was trying to make. Moments after I thought it might be time to plan a vacation to the top of a 14,000 foot mountain, Josh challenged the audience with the question:
How can we get to a more Zen-like experience? 

When he said that sensors, placed in things you'd never believe (cows for example, to let you know via text message and Bluetooth that they want to procreate) give us Super Powers, he was about to draw attention to the fact that we have to use our creativity to figure out how to tell us more about what is going on around us. At the same time doing so in such a way that we don't find ourselves having to tune into a zillion linguistic sets of technological chatter (i.e. a zillion different operating systems).

We know, we hear about it every day, how much all this technology, cool as it can be on a drooling geeky level, pulls us away from people and things all around us. People who can't get their faces out of their phones, who miss the crosswalk entirely and wander in front of traffic, or drive practically onto the sidewalk, because they are texting. People who don't get out enough because they are doing all their communication over the internet. I'm as guilty as anyone. Conference calls, video conferencing, email, Skype, G+, etc etc etc. It makes me type faster and faster just thinking about it. Can we slow down please?


Josh said, we are so good at communicating across the planet, but what about using that technology to help us communicate better right here? To make life simpler, not more complicated.

Radical thought. The idea that instead of having to unplug completely to be more mindful of what is around us, that we use that technology to help us do it. And put a little more Zen into our lives.

Josh's ideas were to use the power of sensors, which are now so small and sensitive that we can embed them in the strangest places (you can put one in your body that will buzz you when your posture is bad) to focus you on things in the Here and Now. And not just the Over There and Later. The technology exists for much of this, as we kept seeing up on the screen yesterday morning. It isn't science fiction anymore.

It is Tricorder territory on a very advanced level. I liked that thought. And Holodeck territory. I liked that thought too. Beam me up - no wait.... Keep me grounded.

Here is perhaps one of my favorite devices: the Hapifork. It monitors how fast you are eating and can tell you to slow down -  help you  e  a  t  m o r e   s  l  o  w  l  y. For those of you who have a tendency to mindlessly shovel it in while sitting in front of the computer this could be a wonderful item.


An excellent reminder that we make decisions about the technology we create and what purposes we put it to. There are times (yes yes yes) when we want to, and probably should, go off the grid. But we can't always just do that. And not everyone on the planet has (or wants) a meditation practice. So the rest of the time - hey, we are making this stuff, testing this stuff, buying this stuff. The people attending MOB'dUP yesterday got a great message from their keynote speaker that they can be creative as all get out and swim in as much mobile technology as they like - and if they so choose, they can use it to make life more simple. What a lovely idea!!!!!

Not zombies; UX professionals in sunlight

To Be Continued.

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