Gigs without phones

The Simple Joy of “No Phones Allowed”

A few nights ago I saw Jack White in concert. It was a wonderful night, and a big part of that was due to a new rule he has imposed on all his tour dates: no phones.

When you arrive, you have to put your phone into a neoprene pouch, supplied by a company called Yondr, which they lock and give back to you. If you want to use your phone during the show, you can go into the concourse and unlock it by touching it to one of several unlocking bases. The concert area itself remains screen-free.

The effect was immediately noticeable upon entering the concert bowl. Aside from the time-travel-like strangeness of seeing a crowd devoid of blue screens, there was a palpable sense of engagement, as though—and it sounds so strange to say it—everyone came just so they could be there.

People were visibly enjoying the opening band, at least in part because that band no longer compete with the entire internet for the crowd’s attention. Even the crowd’s milling around and chatting between acts was so much more lively. People were either talking to their neighbors, or taking in the room. And everyone taking in the room was taking in the same room. It felt great.

This is an interesting article but, for me at least, a weird one. I don’t have a smartphone. My phone is about 15 years old and the reason I keep it is because I have 4 days battery life and really…what do I need a phone for? The odd text message. The odd phone call. That’s it.

Need directions to a place? I look them up beforehand, or ask someone nearby or just like… do what I’ve done on occasion and just… look around and pick the direction that seems right. That last one I did in Paris because I don’t speak French but at the same time I just didn’t want to talk to anyone anyway. Did I get where I wanted to go? Actually yes. Did it take a long time? No, because somehow I picked the right direction.

But back to gigs.

The article says “everyone came just so they could be there” – which I think would have been true even if everyone could have kept their smartphones. I’ve been to the odd gig where the artist performing has been pretty hyped in the press and you can see the subset of the crowd who is there so that they can say that they were there (you can kind of tell who they are, because they tend to be standing in circles talking to each other at the tops of their voices all the way through and it would probably have been cheaper to hang with their friends in a pub or something).

I can’t say that I’ve personally felt the black hole of disengagement from the smartphone using crowd around me. Perhaps it’s the fans that the artists I go to see attract? Anyone who shows up for the support acts is always there to actually see the support act that their ticket money is going towards. Sure, people use their phones between acts – but that doesn’t prevent the crowd doing an impromptu sing-a-long to the Queen song that drifts out of the speakers while we wait.

But yeah. I don’t have a smartphone. I go to gigs on my own. Sometimes I’ll talk to the people around me (nearly all of whom have smartphones in their pockets). Mostly, I like being there and hearing the people chatting around me but I don’t necessarily have anything to say to them. I’m content to sit or stand and just wait – I don’t need the constant entertainment of a phone or conversation with another person. So maybe the change that the author of the article experiences wasn’t because everyone around them didn’t have a phone, but primarily because they personally didn’t have a phone. All of the things they talk about people doing at the gig without their phones, they have been doing at all the gigs where they had their phones – the author just didn’t notice.

Common Cyborg – Jillian Weise

The whole essay is here.

To Haraway, the cyborg is a matter of fiction, a struggle over life and death, a modern war orgy, a map, a condensed image, a creature without gender. The manifesto coopts cyborg identity while eliminating reference to disabled people on which the notion of the cyborg is premised. Disabled people who use tech to live are cyborgs. Our lives are not metaphors.

I <3 RSS 5eva

Reading a Wired article on how RSS is apparently coming back and mostly struck by the fact that, for me at least, it never went away.

Still, the lasting appeal of RSS remains the parts that haven’t changed: the unfiltered view of the open web, and the chance to make your own decisions about what you find there.

“The most amazing thing to me about RSS is that no one really went away from it,” says Wolf. “It still exists. Somehow through all of this. It’s crazy, in a way, that when you go away from RSS and then come back to it, it’s all still there.”

I LOVE RSS.

I browse Tumblr by RSS. I BROWSE TUMBLR BY RSS. And boy am I glad that the spooky names for October business died down because now I only have to check who I am following every once in a while to see who just randomly changed their URL (I have never understood the changing your URL stuff, how are people you know supposed to find you?). I get podcasts by RSS. I still follow a few blogs by RSS.

I miss Google Reader, but now I use Feedly and keep a foot in over at Inoreader and maybe I’m gonna see if I still have an Old Reader account because I liked that one. I also use an RSS reader in the Opera Browser which currently is kind of an extension that is replicated in the latest version a thing that used to be in the old version but Opera has brought in some thing called “News” that tries to hijack RSS feeds away from the RSS reader extension I installed. And you can’t turn the news thing off.

WHY REMOVE A THING, ONLY TO PUT IT BACK WORSE AFTER LIKE FIVE YEARS?

RSS may have sometimes delivered the last 20 items that I already read from a blog, but at least they have never been delivered to me out of chronological order.