Tonight, with more than a million of the closest friends I've never met, I'm taking part in a vigil. Perhaps some would say that I'm becoming a stalker from the comfort of my living room.
That's right, I'm waiting anxiously for my new iPhone 4S to be delivered tomorrow. As part of the 1+ million people that collectively ordered phones last Friday in the wee hours of the morning, I've been tracking my eagerly awaited device as it has moved across the world. Originating in Shenzhen, China on Tuesday and heading first to Hong Kong and then on a long transatlantic journey to Anchorage, AK yesterday, my smart new buddy has had quite a trip so far. After spending much of today in Louisville, KY (at the completely amazing UPS Worldport), and now on the final leg of the trip, my iPhone will have eventually traveled over 8,000 miles to reach me in Pittsburgh. While I'm now very familiar with the migratory patterns of the iPhone 4S, I still wonder: how did we get here?
By we, I mean myself and the millions of others (over 300 million, I've read) that own iPhones, let alone Androids and other smartphones. While the evolution of technology is amazing, I think that the shift in the hearts and minds of users has been even more so. By tomorrow, more than a million people will have a sophisticated HCI tool in their homes and as a part of their daily lives, perhaps for the first time. The Siri integration may be the first step of many in bringing more human-computer interacton to the lives of the casual user. Smartphones are an integral part of daily life for millions of people, and this is unlikely to change in the near future. We are connected with people in both narrow and diffuse situations, and in ways that we have never really been before. This means the creation of more and many different kinds of records and files, and the cold reality of attempting to make reasoned decisions and policies about new record types and mountains of data.
There have been cultural and technological changes in just the past five or ten years that have made smartphones such a part of daily life for many. There are other bits that we take for granted, such as storing files in the cloud, or nearly ubiquitous free wifi-- that now make our current routines possible, but will probably be themselves outdated in no time at all. Now as the future still looms large, there are some questions that we continue to ask: how did we get here? what are we doing? what's next? These are age-old questions that help us to ground ourselves in the present by understanding the knowledge (and records) of the past. The practice of keeping records necessarily adapts and changes with the flow of technology, and we change along with it, too. The ways in which we use (and are used by) technology are sometimes invisible, but always worth thinking about. How did we get here again?
Anyway, tonight I'm thinking about the iPhone, and about people, and about the next frontier. What's on your mind?