Brilliant piece by Ian Bogost in the Altantic.
It’s been seven years since the first launch of the iPhone. Before that, smartphones were a curiosity, mostly an affectation of would-be executives—Blackberry and Treo and so forth. Not even a decade ago, they were wild and feral. Today, smartphones are fully domesticated. Tigers made kittens, which we now pet ceaselessly. Over two-thirds of Americans own them, and they have become the primary form of computing.
But along with that domestication comes the inescapability of docility. Have you not accepted your smartphone’s reign over you, rather than lamenting it? Stroking our glass screens is just what we do now, even if it also feels sinful. The hope and promise of new computer technology has given way to the malaise of living with it.
Shifts in technology are also shifts in culture and custom. And these shifts have become more frequent and more rapid over time. Before 2007, one of the most substantial technological shifts in daily life was probably the World Wide Web, which was already commercialized by the mid-1990s and mainstream by 2000. Before that? The personal computer, perhaps, which took from about 1977 until 1993 or so to become a staple of both home and business life. First we computerized work, then we computerized home and social life, then we condensed and transferred that life to our pockets. With the newly announced Apple Watch, now the company wants to condense it even further and have you wear it on your wrist.