Monday, June 01, 2015

I need a Digital Vacation

A popular B2C eCommerce marketplace announced that it will shut down the website and engage customers only on the mobile phone; the news had everyone wondering about the wisdom behind such a move. Various views prevailed on the trigger towards this unusual step; speculations did not stop despite press releases that outlined the rationale behind the move. Everyone watched with abated breath when D-day arrived; a few days later a small dip in traffic and revenue was reported with an optimistic view that they will bounce back.

It is published statistics that number of smartphones is increasing globally; the personal device is also becoming the primary means to access Internet, browse, check email, communicate, socialize, and do some personal and official work. Phones are also getting smarter, larger, with higher compute capacity now beginning to rival computers of a not too distant past, offer reasonable mobile storage and increasingly better cameras. Conventional wisdom says that mobile is and will remain the primary device of choice.

Then the latest hype and hoopla is around wearable technology; it all started with glasses (the kind you wear on the eyes) mimicking some of the futuristic movies of the 90s depicting humanoids with special powers. Next came fitness bands which offered alternative ways to view limited information while they monitored body vital functions; these were followed by smart watches wanting to change the way you consume information. Seesawing between screen sizes, each device competed for attention by offering notifications of all types (see Divergence is …).

Did I forget tablets which now masquerade as mini-laptops or phablets that disguise themselves as big sized phones or handy sized tablets ? Crossovers of all types have attempted to bridge a perceived gap until they either became the standard or irrelevant. Case in point as an example, laptops with touchscreens or tablets with keyboards competing for bag space. Depending on need and at times driven by corporate policy, there are cases where both have won and coexist as personal and work device.

Are we obsessed about staying connected or is technology pressurizing us into compulsive behaviour for the next notification or alert. Who benefits from connected devices and alarms that keep us on our toes ? Is our life changing for the better or worse with guiding forces that we no longer control ? From a closed society that valued privacy we have moved to an open world where almost everyone has access to life events that we decided to share and then exercise control on who can see them forgetting that it has been cataloged for data mining !

Coming back to the Thing that could/will be the primary information creation and consumption device(s), it is quite likely and highly probable that contextually there will be separation. We will have the choice on how we would like consume; willingly or inadvertently we will be broadcasting data into the servers of service providers, marketers, and feed analytical engines through the various Things that on or off us will monitor what we are up to in our lives and the feedback mechanism will to nudge our choices subconsciously.

Information consumption shall extend beyond visual interactions to encompass auditory as well as kinaesthetic experience. I think the phone as we know it today will probably retain a large share while other form factors (may be integrated into the phone or discrete) will complete the experience. Change contextually will be driven by where we are, what we are doing, who are we with, time of the day, at work or home or leisure, traveling or stationary, and finally personal choice based on peer influence and personal comfort.

There will also be forced or chosen moments of disconnected bliss (let’s call it Digital Vacation) until withdrawal symptoms give way to the craving or we time out the detached life. Extreme cases would undergo Digital detoxification camps and participate in support groups (not digitally but in person) and be monitored actively ironically by digital devices. Does this situation sound too dramatic, hypothetical or out of science fiction ? Well I believe that the future is already here for some while others will catch up sooner than later.

Blessed would be a few who can at will detach themselves and have no impact on professional or personal life. 

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