Experience #5 Where is my phone?

// Posted by on 11/26/2014 (11:21 AM)

I feel as if I did not get to accurately participate in our most recent experience. Over the weekend, my phone broke and as of class Monday, I had yet to get a replacement. I had been phoneless for over 24 hours at the time. So when we were asked to give away our phone halfway through the experience, I had no phone to turn in and felt a little disappointed.

That said, I believe I was still able to produce a relevant reaction out of the experience. Initially, I was quite curious as to what our experience would be entail. The only information I had beforehand was that we would be going to Pony Pasture by the James River, that I should reread the Tufecki and Turtle readings and that I would be required to bring chips and salsa. We arrived at Pony Pasture, found a relatively quiet place with a nice flat rock to man and set up a picnic of sorts. Looking around I could tell my classmates were just as curious as I was about why we were having a picnic at the river in a Digital America class. Oh the irony. After some initial hesitation by all parties, the shared food, which included brownies, popcorn, fruit and munchkins, was passed around and a bit of conversation began to develop.

I cannot remember the exact nature and timeline of our conversation. Unfortunately, being phoneless for the duration of the experience prevented me from differentiating between the two parts. Topics that I recall being discussed included: our college majors, the value of a liberal arts degree, Chipotle, our professor’s experiences in Colorado and starting a company, working while in school, and differences between student life in Australia and at Richmond. Looking back on the beginning of the experience, I am impressed with the swiftness that our group dropped the awkwardness of the situation and delved into conversation. I feel that Dr. Rosatelli’s contributions to the discussion probably helped move the conversation along, but I thought the rest of our group did so sufficiently.

I know that I personally felt quite engaged in our discussions, and never really felt distracted. It leaves me to wonder just how different the experience would have been for me had I had a working phone on me. I know that I am the type of person who constantly checks their phone during pauses in conversation or when the attention is on others. I believe that the my complete lack of phone was the most influential part of this. When I have my phone on me, I am constantly reminded of its presence whether it is through a notification I receive or just the physical feeling of the phone in my pocket. Because I knew that I didn’t have a phone with me, I was not being reminded of its presence, and was able to focus my attention on the group conversation without feeling interrupted.

When it was announced that phones would be turned in for the second half of the experience, I tried to pay more attention to my classmates and notice the changes in their behavior, seeing as I couldn’t really judge the change in mine. Although I did not notice others being distracted by their phones during the first part of the experience, I felt that in the second half, some of my classmates were more active in the conversation than they had previously. I cannot say that this is a direct cause of not having one’s phone on their person, but I am led to believe that it part of the reason. Like I said, I think the presence of phone on one’s person can be both a physical and mental distraction. When you remove it from the equation, a person is freer to remove themselves from their reliance on their phone, which gives evidence to Turkle’s argument.

Our final experience proved to be both a rewarding lesson and an enjoyable time. Being able to get out of the classroom on such a beautiful day in November was a pleasant surprise. When our class time was ending, I didn’t want to leave. I was having a wonderful time and could have spent the rest of the afternoon on the rock with the rest of our Digital America class. It was a fitting moment of Zen before we get into the trials and tribulations of our upcoming final projects and I am certainly thankful for that this Thanksgiving week.

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