DIARY OF A DIGITAL ANTHROPOLOGIST: LIFE OF A SMARTPHONE
What is digital anthropology? In an ongoing blog series, VINAYA's in-house anthropologist Sammi demonstrates through exploring different questions and ideas. Here, Sammi puts herself in the shoes of the device that within a single generation has gone from being unknown, to being a paramount object for modern life on which we all depend.
I remember the day I was born. I remember feeling all warm on the inside and slowly opening my eyes. There she was, holding me in her hand and looking at me intently. A bright white light illuminated her face, and we were surrounded by grey walls and crowds of people. I welcomed her , asking her for her information, and she introduced herself.
First name: Georgia. Surname: Taylor. Email: Georgie1234@gmail.com
I learned many more things that first day, such as how to guess a song just from listening to a few moments, how to meditate, and how to search for answers to life’s most difficult questions such as, 'what does the girl from Matilda look like in 2016?'.
Georgia and I became close confidants. She tells me everything, shows me all of her intimate conversations, shares with me each and every moment and memory. I quickly learned that where I had been born into her life was a place named ‘work’, where we spend most of our productive time together. I like it when we’re at ‘work’ because Georgia takes me everywhere with her. I’m a very important member of the team.
"She tells me everything, shows me all of her intimate conversations, shares with me each and every moment and memory."
The place called ‘Home’ is different, because I have to compete with video games (who are very arrogant, by the way), Netflix (who thinks they’re all that because they’ve seen all these fancy documentaries) and, worst of all, someone called Boyfriend.
I do not like Boyfriend. He is always very rude to me and I don’t know why. Sometimes, when Georgia and I are hanging out and catching Pokemon together, he will get very angry and insist that she puts me away. I think he’s jealous because Georgia likes me better.
Sometimes when we are at dinner with Boyfriend, Georgia and I will secretly talk under the table, or play games and read the news. Anything but listen to Boyfriend– he really never shuts up.
I know he can't compete with my attention-seeking powers, though. Sometimes Georgia will be very busy and I will be trying to get her attention, but she won’t look at me. I'll shout and shout and shout for her attention, but she won’t even take me out of her pocket. I’m just trying to help. ‘Georgia,’ I tell her, ‘don’t forget dinner with your mother tonight’, 'your friends need to know what you'll bring to the pot luck next week', 'your boss needs that spreadsheet link ASAP', 'Boyfriend needs you to look at a cat video', 'you're becoming more popular on Twitter, Georgia'.... When it all gets too much, she silences me and ignores me. In this scenario, I'm usually tell her she's late and I have to get her a taxi as she rushes out the door.
When it’s just the two of us, though, things are perfect. I get all the attention. We walk through the streets listening to music, we watch the sunset together from a hill in the park. No reminders or appointments, just a perfect day.
I’ve become close with Georgia’s friends and family, who I talk with daily. I handle her calendar, remember her passwords, tell her where to go, suggest things to search for, give her tips on how to spend her time, order her food... I’ve come know Georgia so well, I often know what she needs before she does. I can predict her every thought and desire.
Georgia is hardly perfect, though. There was that time we were horsing around with some friends, making some hilarious memories together, when Georgia let me slip out of her hand and straight onto the hard pavement. She does it once in a while, but this time was particularly bad. She yelled and cursed a lot when she picked me up and saw the cracks.
I went to sleep the next day and woke up a few days later all better. The first thing I saw was Georgia’s face, and she looked so happy to see me, almost like that first time we met. She must have really missed me.
We really did have it great, me and Georgia. I was the first thing she saw every morning, and the last thing she saw every night. We were inseparable, we were one.
I know I should really start trying to forget her. I have to accept that I will probably never see her again. The man who grabbed me was on a bike was cycling too fast for Georgia to catch him. She was screaming again, yelling at the man to bring me back.
Since that day, I’ve travelled far away, and had to learn many new things. My new home is very different. It’s hotter and busier and louder. This new guy does this weird thing all the time where he’ll look right at me and twist his mouth until he looks like a duck. I don’t really get what he’s trying to do, but I’m sure I’ll get used to it eventually. For now, I can’t help but constantly reminisce. I may not have Georgia, but I’ll always have the memories.
*This post was (heavily) inspired by Simon Rich’s piece in the New Yorker titled, Unprotected.