Last year I read a Sales Statistic which proclaimed Apple Inc. had sold half a billion iPhones all across the globe. That’s almost the same number of iPhones as the total Canine population in the World. Not that I am suggesting that Dogs and iPhones have something in common but both get a lot of human attention and iPhones demands as much attention as pet dogs do and are giving a serious competition to the Canines to take over the title of Man’s best Friend. Dogs have predated humans however iPhones and smart phones made their entry into the Human Consciousness only in the last decade.
We live in a digital world where toddlers first learn how to interface with iPhones and iPads than learning the basics of English Alphabet. IPhones have become the tools for most of the parents of the present generation to teach their little kids the nuances of socialization in isolation. Smart Phones have become sort of human appendages and we are all privy to scenes of people lost in their virtual world in trains, on the roads, in restaurants, at the movie theaters and any public place we can think of with their favorite gadgets by their side isolating themselves from the crowd. The virtual experience and the isolation promoted by these gadgets had its roots in a gadget of an earlier era. Walkman the older and illustrious cousin of the present iPod.
The Walkman was the first of a long line of mobile devices to attract criticism for isolating its users, promoting narcissism, detachment, and rude behavior, while at the same time preventing interactions that are the basis for traditional place-based communities. – Wikipedia In 1984, Shuhei Hosokawa published an article in Popular Music called “The Walkman Effect”. Hosokawa defined the Walkman Effect as a disconnection between the Walkman user and his/her environment. He examined the Walkman as more of a cultural object with its relationships with the user rather than as a technological artifact. The Walkman extends the act of listening to music, which before was a commonly private task, to other more public locations such as the park, work, and gym. Hosokawa described listening to music on the Walkman “as a place out of space and time, a placeless place, where the user is taken to be disconnected from the world around them. The Walkman creates a virtual space in which “spatial difference” is erased and the experience is the same anywhere. There is a distance between the experience of listening to music on the Walkman and other actions done while listening. The Walkman causes the user to be at the intersection of two different spaces, such as in between media and physical space and between a private world and the social environment.
The Walkman user is isolated in this virtual space listening to music alone, disconnected from the world. The user has complete control in this space outside the physical world. The public sees the Walkman user as unusual and preoccupied. While the listener is humming and walking to the beat of the music, no one else in the outside world can hear what he is listening to. The Walkman user is having a private act publicly performed, often described as inappropriate. The user is autonomous but also disconnected from the environment. — Lentis/The Walkman Effect
Apple devices and other Smart Phones amplify the Walkman Effect now also called the Mobile Effect. Humans are taking a leaf from the behavior of ostriches which are known to bury their heads in the sand and we similarly are following suit by burying ourselves most of the time in the invisible virtual world of the digital era prompting debates about a new addiction affecting the mankind. Addiction to iphones and its family of related products. Apple devices though promoting the Walkman effect open the doors to the world of social media to us. All our network and connections come alive at the click of a button courtesy of our smartphones through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp. It’s almost paradoxical that these gadgets which isolate us form the real world and our environment connect us to the vast virtual world out there. That’s in a nut shell life in the Digital World and Welcome to the digital world!