A few days ago, the iPhone turned 5 years old. Since it first hit shelves, Apple has released just as many versions of the phone as years it’s been sold. Even though it’s an inanimate object, many news outlets across the country decided to acknowledge this turning point for the device. The iPhone, of all the smartphones, has probably led the charge in making these devices seem like a cool, sleek, vital part of any modern person’s life. It’s helped create the illusion that not only should everyone want a smartphone, but that everyone needs one.
I think this has created a smartphone expectation. This idea that even though this is not the case right now, the connectivity features and access to app stores found in some phones will eventually be the norm for all devices. From your mp3 players to phones to tablets, everything will be connected to the Internet and life will be amazing. Considering so many students’ reactions to the Three Books choices – it appears that we understand that smartphone ownership isn’t a requirement to be a full participant in academia or life in general. (If you haven’t read it, I think there was a fair explanation from Dean Julie about UAR’s choice published about a week later.) But some may say that Stanford’s campus is the poster child for owning a connected device. With wifi seemingly floating through the open air, our campus encourages people to stay connected wherever they are. Although we understand the divisive problems this may cause when students initially come to campus, owning a smartphone eventually seems like the norm.
I have quite a few friends who don’t own smartphones (due to personal choice and parental limitations). Every time they use them, they have to justify their choice to smartphone users around them. Before anyone says anything, many call their own phones old or just plain ‘crappy.’ Although this is not how everyone acts., it has become part of culture to scoff at a phone that does nothing more than make calls. It might be unconscious, but in the back of many people’s mind there may be a tiny belief that all phones will be smart devices one day. And I’m not sure what to think about that.
Considering continuing studies that show that social networking, and text messaging are changing how we interact with the world, and not necessarily for the better, I wonder what this trend towards going all digital will mean? And specifically with our mobile devices? If you believe that most devices are following this smart trend, part of me doesn’t understand what the fuss was about with the Three Books. Requiring students to interact with an apps suite, regardless of whether or not they have the appropriate hardware, seems like a great idea if you believe that all phones will be like that in a few years. It will be the first chance for some students to truly engage with apps, a new way for companies to provide services to users.
If you don’t see a smart future for everyone, then your issue with UAR’s program is completely justified. Unfortunately, I don’t think many people think that way. The complaints about UAR’s program may be sound today, but I don’t think they will be in the near future. And maybe they should have waited till that near future to change things. Alas, Stanford is a catalyst and for the most part, people like the change members of our university trigger.
I’m a smartphone user. I love it. It’s distracting, and fun, and the only reason that I’ve been able to navigate the new city I’m living in for my summer internship. I didn’t own it when I arrived on Stanford’s campus – I had to work and save money in order to buy my own phone. I pay for my own data plan. And while my response to the Three Books argument is a month late, I couldn’t help bring it up again when reporters decided to commemorate the iPhone for being around for 5 years. Smartphones and smart devices play an important role in society - we can’t ignore it just because it will potentially make some people uncomfortable. If we’re willing to commemorate devices that are only a few years old, why wait in introducing people to those devices? I’m hesitant to fully support the stance that refuse to acknowledge the benefits of a learning experiences that introduces students to this fast-paced industry.
And beyond the Three Books, I wonder whether my expectation of things going digital and devices going smart is even fair? Maybe I’m not giving print enough credit. Either way, I think that if people don’t want to fall in the trap of falsely believing that more advanced technology, in all sectors of life, equates to everything being better, they need to change their mindset today. This includes myself. Things will only become more divisive in the future between different socioeconomic spheres, far more than an app suite (that everyone will be able to access) can divide an incoming student body. We can’t choose to either fear or embrace technology as we go forward – we need to do both if we want to fully understand its repercussions in everyday life.