Middle of Nowhere Productions

Middle of Nowhere Productions

A Phone-free world

Three weeks ago, I lost my mobile phone. Just left it on a table in a café in Berlin. And the phone company then delivered a replacement to my neighbours, who went away themselves before I could catch up with them.

The last three weeks have been a curious, quite enjoyable return to an age when to be out of doors was to be undisturbed; a state almost unimaginable to many younger people.

And yet within living memory, our relation with telecommunications were much simpler even than that. As recently as the 1980s, many people didn't even have answering machines. Let alone mobiles or email. If you wanted to contact people, you hoped they were in the vicinity of their telephone, or wrote them a letter – in the mid-eighties at Oxford, if you wanted to ask a friend to go to the pictures, you wrote an invitation on a piece of paper and delivered it by the internal mail service. Amazing.

Ivy Compton-Burnett was once asked what quality she valued most in her friends, and gave the famous reply “availability”. She might have loved our lives now, when we are available and plugged in to friend, foe, employer or subordinate, any hour of the day or night. I guess that your response to the latest development in the technology of availability will, however, depend largely on your age. If you are over 35, Facebook Places will probably sound like a nightmarish submission to surveillance; under 35, and it will seem like a cool way to hook up with your friends.

The joy of living in a phone-free world”. Philip Hensher, The Independent, Sept.30 2010.

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