Now possessing a new smartphone, I found my attention caught by Danny Crichton’s TechCrunch article, “Putting Smartphone Zombies In Their Place.” Crichton approaches the potentially cliche topic–those goshdarn kids with their Androids and iPhones–and even the cliche of again going back to zombies for metaphor (’cause I’m oh-so-above that in my own course content). Yet these cliches serve Crichton to extrapolate insights first from the recent development of smartphone walking lanes in Chongqing, China, before addressing the ethics of technology and interpersonal contact:
But loneliness is only one facet of today’s smartphone user. You can be lonely at home with your device, which is why a smartphone sidewalk seems strange until you realize that what people actually fear is the appearance of loneliness. When you really think about what these sidewalks are, its much more about seeming important and above the crowd than it is about efficient movement of pedestrians. Much like movie stars being guided down the red carpet, we don’t have to pay attention to where we are walking on our special sidewalk. Our notifications lather us in attention, and for a little while, we can feel that the whole world thinks that we are much more important than we actually are.
Human agency is a wonderful thing. We have more power today to shape our world than at any time in the past. We can choose to live lives that are more engaged, and use technology as a tool to build our friendships and seek out companionship. Or we can be distracted and notified every five minutes. The choice is now just a sidewalk away.
Crichton puts himself into the argument, not shying away from speaking directly to readers, citing theorists regarding civil engineering built around smartphones, and as in the above passages lending pathos to how isolating technology can make us feel.
In other words, I’m expecting Bedford or another major publisher to use Crichton’s essay for a rhetorical textbook reader.