Emily Hase-Raney - Study

Unplugged by Default
Emily Hase-Raney’s Tech Blog

Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Am I a Digital Immi-tive?
I still have a slide phone, with actual buttons. Its’ screen isn’t touchable and the Internet takes almost ten minutes to load. Even if the whole world came to a complete stop, the camera would still take a blurry photo.

According to Marc Prensky, your “average college grad[uate]s have spent…over 10,000 hours playing video games (not to mention 20,000 hours watching TV). Computer games, email, the Internet, cell phones and instant messaging are integral parts of their lives” (Prensky). By birth and my childhood, I fit this description of a Digital Native; however, I am also an outsider when it comes to my surrounding digital world.

Furthermore, Marc Prensky highlights several criteria that Digital Natives inhibit:
Digital Natives are used to receiving information really fast. They like to parallel process and multi-task. They prefer their graphics before their text rather than the opposite. They prefer random access (like hypertext). They function best when networked. They thrive on instant gratification and frequent rewards.
In comparison, I am an avid texter, who actively updates my social networking site, Facebook. I will give up on any website that takes more then ten seconds to load and, “through years of interaction and practice”, I have perfected the art of multi-tasking (Prensky). On paper, I am a Digital Native.

Now, let’s take Prensky’s article, Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, and update its contents by about ten years, to the present. One key update would be based around the production and rise of the smartphone. All of Prensky’s Digital Native ideations remain true; however, they would evolve to include some variation of these words, “at your fingertips”. With this update, I no longer consider myself a constantly plugged in Digital Native. Am I a Digital Native? Digital Immigrant? Is there a common ground?

Where is all my money going?
I work full-time as well as go to school full-time. For as long as I can remember, I have paid for my vehicle, cellphone, tuition, books, gas, rent, groceries, bills, etc. Please don’t take this as a complaint; I truly think these financial obligations have made me into the person I am today. Even so, these obligations take precedence over buying a smartphone, which leaves me…?

Financing various aspects of my life causes me to prioritize where my money goes. Being a fingertip away to headline news, happenings of friends and family, sports scores, and recent trends seems like a necessity; however, “purchasing food, making loan payments, buying clothes, and filling up the car with gas” comes before a pricey smartphone data plan (Dunlop). According to CBC News, affording a phone package shouldn’t be as hard as it seems; “average hours of work needed to pay for a package per year: 5.83”. When they put it like that, it seems doable. However, the average cost of a medium phone plan roughly estimates to around $140 a month, which is not an option when it comes to my budget (CBC News).

I know I am not alone in this struggle with technology. Walking across campus I see a minute number of my peers sliding, or even flipping, open their phones to answer calls and return texts. Whether their lack of having a smartphone is related to their finances or not, I am left to wonder if we are missing something. Even though I cannot immediately update my Facebook, is personal expression still possible? And for those who are already constantly connected, is there anything to gain from being plugged-in 24/7? Will they miss the connection if it is taken away?

An informal personal ethnography, various interviews, and a -rather comical- connection experiment will further my understanding of being constantly plugged-in. The majority of this blog will be my firsthand account of my experiences of being unplugged, the experiences of others who are almost plugged-in (like me), and the experiences of those who live and breathe through their smartphones. Unfortunately, leasing a smartphone for a week is not an option; however, a plugged-in friend agreed to assist me with this project. Every time he wanted to look something up on his smartphone he simply texted me the inquiry, and every time I needed to look something up on his smartphone I texted him my question. Here we go!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Can I have your attention, please?
Have you ever been out to lunch or dinner where everyone is on his or her smartphones? They ignore any and everything around them, focusing only on that tiny little screen in their hands. This is usually the case when it comes to my friends and I; I know they are not purposefully ignoring me, its just second nature to them. Being constantly plugged-in “is like breathing” (female, 22). I lean to my left, than to my right to sneak a peek at what has their full attention: football stats, Facebook pages, and tomorrow’s weather forecast scroll across screens. Of course, no one notices me stealing a look at their personal searches, as their smartphone tunnel vision has long ago kicked in.

Smartphone tunnel vision.
Today, remaining plugged-in is a norm. With various sites and programs like Facebook and Twitter, users are already accustomed to being in the know regarding their world. On Facebook you can access your profile, your friends pictures and your favorite actor’s page, why would someone wait until they are in the comforts of their home to login? For those who don’t have to wait, don’t. One of my interviewees (female, 22, smartphone owner) says that she likes to stay on top of what’s going on in her friends’ lives. She updates her Facebook, sends Tweets, and emails her parents while sitting in class, getting a pedicure and going through a drive-thru. And you can’t wait to do those things until you get home? “Once I’m sucked in, I’m stuck. “ Her smartphone is equipped with an abundance of applications:
• Social networking- Facebook, Twitter, Instant Messaging
• Games
• Music- radio applications, Pandora, her own mp3 music
• Banking
• Promotions- Redbox, Kroger coupons
• Sports
• Work
• Directions- maps, GPS
These would keep anyone busy in a smartphone tunnel of never ending applications. The very question of not having those applications at her fingertips “sent a chill down [her] spine”.

Meanwhile, the other 22-year-old female that I interviewed does not currently own a smartphone, and consequently sports a slider phone without Internet access or apps. She lets me know that she is not eager to jump on the smartphone bandwagon anytime soon: “Always having everyone’s business at your fingertips is a turn off”. Interestingly enough, she only checks her Facebook about once a week and doesn’t have a Twitter account. “I like the feeling of seeing that little notification box on the top of my Facebook newsfeed. It’s almost like I’m getting rewarded for my patience.”

I agree.

Over the summer I had limited Internet access and only checked my Facebook account about twice a month. The few times I logged on, I was greeted with numerous friend requests, inbox messages and notifications. A year ago, I changed my Facebook account so that it wouldn’t email me my notifications, leaving me surprised by the abundance of attention to my page. Doesn’t anybody like a little surprise anymore?

Just the other night, my boyfriend left flowers on my car to greet me after a long night at work. Before I knew what he had done, two of my coworkers texted me; one text read, “Aw ur bf is too cute! great flowers!”, while the other was a picture message of the actual flowers on my car. Seriously? This real life example makes me think, Has our sense of surprise, curiosity and wonder disappeared?

Friday, October 7, 2011
What’s the hurry?
I realized today that no one has any patience anymore. My friend, Tony, has a smartphone. I, obviously, do not. As I said earlier, we agreed to do a little experiment. I texted him whenever I wanted to search his smartphone and he would text me a search that he would typically just type into his smartphone. Initially, I planned to do this for a week; however, it quickly got out of hand. Our interactions ranged from relevant questions like, “What time do I work tonight?” to “Can you see if my teacher emailed me about the on-campus meeting?” to “When and on what channels do the Redskins play tonight?” Soon these inquiries changed. These are a few of the random searches that we planned to conduct if we had the smartphone capabilities at hand (actual text messages; some provide their context):
• “How many ft make a mile?”
• “Lockness monster- Myth? Im tryna see one!”
• “How do you spell the whole word of hippo?’
• “Whats the world record for most cartwheels done back to back?”
• “What’s the name of the actor who plays Mayhem in those car commercials?”
These comical questions are actual things that Tony and I would have searched. Some questions, like work related info, is an appropriate piece of information that, if possible, would be convenient to access at any given moment. Let’s say that you are on campus or at the mall and need to know your work schedule so that you can be there on time; however, you have no way of accessing a public computer. This is when the smartphone technology would be beneficial. As for the rest of the questions, why were these so important that we wanted to look them up right away? “I don’t have to wonder anymore. I know that each of my questions has an answer within seconds of my search on my smartphone” (male, 21).

To one interviewee, immediately posting her personal thoughts and carefully crafted updates serves as a release (female, 22). Just by unlocking her phone and sliding her fingers across the screen, she can post to her Facebook page. Unable to use her actual posts, she gave me a brief example of her public personal expression:
Whenever I have a thought that I would like to post, whether it is private, personal, or just anything, I carefully, yet quickly, shape the blurb. If I wait to post, I could lose the emphasis, main point, or thought as a whole, and that is not acceptable.

Personally, I want to carefully, and NOT quickly, mold a post. I am not much of feelings kind of person anyway, but when I do post, I want it to be perfect- not too personal, not too serious, not too funny, but kind of funny…

Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Is there anyone else out there?
When you’re the only one at the table without a smartphone, you have to wonder if you’re the only one, ever. Don’t worry, we are not alone. Even though a recent report states “more than a third of U.S. adults [13 years and older] own smartphones”, half of U.S. adults still use “feature phones” (Gahran). Feature phones are your typical cellphones without the capabilities of being smart. Here is a table of statistics provided by the Federal Communications Commission that outlines exactly what we (category “Age 18-29”) use our cell phones for:


Less then half of my age group uses their cell phones for anything besides your basic sending or receiving of “text messages” and “pictures” (Horrigan). I might not be as left behind as I may have thought.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011
According to my research, I am somewhere between a Digital Native and a Digital Immigrant. But that’s not quite right. I have not been able to accurately name my role in this technology world.,.until now. I came across the term Digital Hopeful in Dr. John Horrigan’s paper series Broadband Adoption and Use in America; it says that 8% of Americans make up this group. This article thoroughly details how, when, where and for how long Americans use Internet; whether it is from their homes or from their mobile devices.

Anyway, Digital Hopefuls “like the idea of being online, but lack the resources to connect” (Horrigan). Those Americans who make up this group have an overall positive attitude of the World Wide Web and Internet use, but simply do not have the means to be constantly plugged-in. After tweaking a few variables, I fit into this category quite nicely.

Today, being plugged-in is an “increasingly key quality of life concern” (Gahran). Having every answer to each question available at the tips of your fingers may sound appealing, being able to look up any given item within seconds may sound efficient but I think I’ll stick with my non-touch screen, regular old cellular phone. I am not ready to convert to the world of the all-knowing; I can wait to get home for my football statistics, I can wait to update my status, and I can wait to surrender my life to technology. Texting and phone calls it is.

Works Cited
"CBC News Interactive: The Price of Staying Connected." CBC.ca - Canadian News Sports Entertainment Kids Docs Radio TV. CBC News.
Web. Oct. 2011. <http://www.cbc.ca/news/interactives/map-cellphonecosts/>.

Dunlop, Tarsi. "Digitally Divided Should Become Technologically Connected." LFA: Join The Conversation - Public School Insights. Learning First Alliance, 12 Oct. 2011. Web. Oct. 2011. <http://www.learningfirst.org/digitally-divided-should-become-technologically-connected>

Gahran, Amy. "Crossing the Mobile Media Digital Divide via the 'Bridge of Death' - CNN.com." CNN.com - Breaking News, U.S., World, Weather, Entertainment & Video News. 7 Oct. 2011. Web. 9 Oct. 2011. <http://www.cnn.com/2011/10/07/tech/mobile/amy-gahran-cell-phone-bridge/index.html?iref=allsearch>.

Gahran, Amy. "Report: More than a Third of U.S. Adults Now Own Smartphones - CNN.com." CNN.com - Breaking News, U.S., World, Weather, Entertainment & Video News. 11 July 2011. Web. 2 Oct. 2011. http://www.cnn.com/2011/TECH/mobile/07/11/pew.smartphone.report.gahran/index.html?iref=allsearch>

Horrigan, John B. PH.D. “Broadband Adoption and Use in America: OBI Working Paper Series No. 1.” Federal Communications Commission. Feb. 2010.
*Finding this article outside of a PDF version is seemingly impossible to locate. If you refer to the Tarsi Dunlop citation, you can see the PDF if you click on the “A 2010 Federal Communications Commission survey” link.

Prensky, Marc. "Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants Part 1." On the Horizon 9.5 (2001): 1-6. Print.

Schatz, Amy. "Nearly 20% of U.S. Is “Digitally Uncomfortable” or “Digitally Distant,” FCC Says." Web log post. Digits. The Wall Street Journal, 23 Feb. 2010. Web. <Nearly 20% of U.S. is “Digitally Uncomfortable” or “Digitally Distant,” FCC Says>

"To Be Plugged-In or To Not Be Plugged-In." Personal interviews. Sept. 2011.