Rumination 62: Carelessness

As a lifelong Mac user and general Apple fan, I believe strongly in caring for what are quite expensive, well-designed devices.

As a sign of my commitment to keeping products as close to their original condition as possible, I once took my then seven-year old unibody MacBook for a trackpad repair (where I worked at the time) and was told by the technician that it was the most pristine item that he had ever seen brought into the shop.

Not everyone, however, is as careful as this. I was reminded of just how unusual and careless some computer use can be during my recent flight from Sydney to Los Angeles. Across the aisle from me, a young man had a 13-inch MacBook Pro in the pouch of the seat in front of him and was using an iPhone 11 Pro. When he wasn’t sleeping, he watched consecutive instalments of the Fast and Furious franchise on his iPhone. First, this was the unusual part: rather than preload his movie files (from iTunes in the TV app) to watch on the Mac’s larger display, he held the iPhone in his lap, hunching forwards and looking down. It’s odd not to want to use a larger display for movies but fair enough.

Then came the careless part, which made this choice seem stranger: tired of holding the iPhone and straining his neck to look down, he removed his Mac from the pouch, put it on the folding tray table and opened the lid slightly, in order to sandwich the iPhone between the trackpad and the top of the lid. He was using his pricey, current-generation MacBook Pro as an iPhone stand.

Eventually, he became tired of this too, as his iPhone repeatedly slipped out from underneath the display, hitting his Mac’s trackpad with a frustrating crunch. What was the solution? He closed his Mac’s lid and propped up the iPhone against the back of the seat in front of him, probably hoping that the person in front would not recline. Fortunately, they didn’t. Still, his iPhone slipped more than once.

I understand that not every Apple product user is going to be as much of a fan as I am. Damage happens and my own devices aren’t in perfect condition. What baffles me is that people who can afford such products are generally ungrateful for them and treat them poorly. Casting my mind back to when I worked for an authorised Apple reseller, I can recall people who brought in desktop Mac’s with heavily dinted edges, iPods that had been dropped in toilets, iPhones with smashed and missing bezels and laptops full of dog hair. I also remember my wife Natasha mentioning how she once distributed new staff iPads during a meeting, with one staff member deciding to place soy crisps on the her new iPad’s display like a plate, while it sat flat on the table in front of her.

More and more, we see people buying products that they perhaps don’t even need, just to fulfil their own personal desires or aspiration for fashion and status. Not once did this guy turn on his laptop during the entire 14-hour flight. This is the true mark of consumerism: not just lots of unnecessary stuff, but also treating it as disposable.

There are people all over the world who would love to be able to afford such devices. As those who are privileged, being careful with and grateful for what we have is the least that we can do to justify what we buy.

PhD Journal Entry 8: Pen(sive) Writing

Today, Natasha and I are leaving Australia for a holiday to the United States for just under a month. We’ve had this in mind for years and it’s fantastic that it’s finally happening.

Before the end of 2019, I was a little nervous about how I should approach reading for my studies while away. My primary supervisor, Kate, told me to stop worrying—as usual—suggesting that I take a complete break from research and enjoy the holiday.

Instead of formal research, she suggested that I keep a handwritten journal of our travels, noting any interesting cultural differences, social observations and experiences with media/technology. I haven’t kept a handwritten diary for years, with the recent exception of my podcasting journal, which Kate also suggested. Aside from being a nice way to remember our holiday, it should be a helpful way to collect and refine my thoughts about America as a centre for cultural production and digital communication, linking to my research focus on niche tech podcasting.

I’m looking forward to the experience of detaching more from digital technology on this trip, other than additions to this site and photo uploads to my blog Feld Notes. It’s a habit that I’m going to have to try to establish more this year: relying more on handwriting to slow down my thinking. Writing with a pen may take more time but it has its advantages.

8. The ‘Post-PC’ Decade

The years fly by… but rarely do we stop to appreciate how things have changed, along with how our use of technology has been reshaped by new tools. In this episode, Martin reflects on his own use of devices, starting with the seismic shift that was the iPad in 2010 and then focusing on 2019, with Apple’s release of the new, dedicated iPadOS.

Notes