Plumpton Parish Council. Part an an experiment. Ignore.

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Job available in tech futures research

I wouldn’t usually do this, but it’s for Imperial College London, with whom I have a relationship. Anyone out there (youngish) with a crystal ball looking for a job in ‘futures’ but with a top-notch academic institution rather than some tiny tinpot company? You might even get to work with me a bit on a map! (that’s enough to put most people off).

Foresight analyst – Enterprise ventures

Salary range £ 43,530-52,630

Location: London – South Kensington campus

Closing date 19 January

More here.


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Lost Connection

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The world is more talkative now than at any time in its history, but this is increasingly at the expense of meaningful conversation. We are talking at rather than to each other, at least that’s the view of Sherry Turkle, a Professor at MIT’s Media Lab and author of the book Alone Together. Mobile devices, especially smart-phones, have invaded formerly quiet and/or private spaces and we appear to be spending more time looking downward (at screens) that outward (at each other or our environment). Friendship, even love, are being mediated through screens and the real world is increasingly being looked at second-hand and through filters.

In an article in the Huffington Post, the photographer Babycakes Romero points out that there is “symmetry” to individuals on mobile devices and that couples and even groups are: “locked simultaneously yet separately into the same action.” He also comments upon the: “sadness to the proceedings”. Some individuals remove themselves further, wearing headphones to cut out auditory distractions or virtual reality headsets to remove other people altogether.

To some extent we are now using smartphones and other devices much in the same way that we used to use cigarettes, to pass the time or to hide our social awkwardness, but perhaps it is the devices themselves that are causing this awkwardness. You might argue that in a culture dominated by individuals and personalization there is less common culture to talk about, or perhaps we are using our devices to hide our fundamental loneliness or insecurity. Hence our endless quest for validation and approval.

Our devices are certainly inducing silence, although we have simultaneously become less able to deal with it. We have lost, or we are losing, both the ability and the desire to be alone. Hence, mobile devices are providing an excise for people, especially couples, to withdraw rather than engage in conversation and to keep the world (and each other) at a controllable distance.

Whether or not there is an emerging etiquette regarding mobile device use is uncertain.

A few years ago the answer would have been no. But now some people are beginning to understand that the use of certain devices in certain situations is either rude or awkward. But these people remain an exception. Even using phones during funerals (“RIP, innit”) is not quite as frowned upon as it once was.

Another of Babycake Romero’s observations is that when people are engaged with a mobile device they don’t seem mentally present and are not enjoying the moment or other person for what it or they are. This is especially apparent in restaurants where the “dining dead” (his phrase) can hardly look at each other, such is the pull of the prospect of incoming information.

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Clearly what we are really saying here is that I like you, but that you could be trumped at any moment by something or someone else. This can hardly be good for our self-esteem so, in an ironic twist, we are more likely to turn to our mobile devices and cyberspace to satisfy our hunger for connection. An endless cycle of disconnection and connection.

A final, but important, point is that when we do present ourselves through mobile devices (and social media in particular) our identity is contrived. It is rarely the real us. Instead we use a fake identity that is consciously manipulated and manicured. Through our screens we appear happier, more optimistic and more successful than we really are. The nature of these on-screen conversations also favours showmanship and extroversion.

The end result is that our connections are partly based upon false information, but also that we end up believing our own false PR. This situation can endure for a long time, but at some point we will be inevitably be mugged by reality.

Images: Copyright Babycakes Romero (with thanks)

References: Huffington Post (UK), 27 October 2014, ‘Photographer Babycakes Romero caputures the death of dining’ due to smartphones’ (P. Bell). See also ‘The flight from conversation’ by S. Turkle, New York  Times (US) 21 April 2012. and ‘Saving the lost art of conversation’ by M. Garber, Atlantic Monthly (US) January 2014.

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The Future of You

Something light for the new year.

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1) New Year Resolution grid from Ian Fitzpatrick (via Artefact Cards).
More about here

2) Love, work & money (i.e. career planning) by Remo Giuffre.
More about here

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The death of conversation

This is worth a look, if only for the photographs.

Huffington Post – Impact of smartphones

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Hermit wanted

Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 11.06.51Hunting tower (built in 1720) set in 500 acres of woodland for rent. Feels like the middle of nowhere, but only fifteen minutes from a large supermarket and just two hours from London. Available as a fully furnished rental for 12-36 months.

No WiFi and mobiles don’t work very well either. Requires 4×4 for access in winter and not suitable for small children due to real fires, stone staircase and steep drops. Suit writer, artist or musician or anyone that wants to detach from the world for a while. Sleeps 4 in comfort or 6-8 in various levels of discomfort.

Would consider short-term exchange with old property in Greece or possibly something ancient and interesting in Somerset, Dorset or Wiltshire.

Reply via ‘comments’ in the first instance.

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Brainmail issue 92 has just gone live (not issue 94 as I just said to brainmail subscribers). Here’s the link

Happy holidays and see you all next year.

PS – thought for the season. Does Santa still believe in children?

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‘Nightclub’ version of future tech map


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