Technology changes our view on the world

How do you get to work? Do you walk, catch public transport, ride or drive? And do you pass the time by escaping into Facebook, iTunes or Twitter?

However you get there, chances are your perception of the space around you is altered by the technology you use in your commute. When you stop and think just how much, it’s really quite alarming.

I read a fascinating article the other day about smartphones and how they are changing the way we engage with the outside world. Public spaces are becoming private ones as we focus on the 2×4” screens in front of our face, rather than the trees, buildings and people around us.

“Smart phones, in short, have given users the impression that they move through communal spaces as if in private bubbles. “They feel that everywhere they are, they have their privacy,” Hatuka says. Smart phones have created, the researchers say, “portable private personal territories.”

Our behaviour – the very way we interact with external environments – has fundamentally shifted. Far from bringing us closer together, it seems technology is beginning to push us further apart.

An article in the North Shore Times recently addressed this issue from a safety and legal perspective. Police are conducting a month-long crackdown to educate pedestrians who are disconnected from the real world and plugged into their smartphone and audio devices.

Extreme? Maybe. But we are at the point where this is a genuine problem… Earlier this year, Android released an app which allows users to view where they’re walking while using their phones. Consumers are demanding that the public and private collide.

But it’s more than safety. It’s also about how we interact with others in society.

When we’re lost, walking through a new part of town, we often turn to our phones before asking for local advice. When in a main thoroughfare, we’d rather walk head down reading a news article then eyes up, acknowledging those around us. What our private spaces offer us is much more compelling than the public ever can.

As a consumer, I want to be able to access information at a time that suits me, in a place that suits me. But not at the expense of that natural environments and interactions we miss when absorbed in our mobile worlds.

Is there a way to find a balance and how can we blend technology within our public spaces?