Recently, Mercury News columnist Michelle Quinn argued that we shouldn't "blame smartphones for turning us into the digitally dazed."
I don't buy the notion that our phones have created a whole host of social ills -- distracted driving, the collapse of manners, even our avoidance of dealing with the big questions like, "What is the meaning of life" -- because they've turned us into emotionally adrift people who info-snack all day....
Smartphones are like "wild animals," said Paul Saffo, a Silicon Valley forecaster. "We have to tame them."
But what we really need to do is tame ourselves.
Anyone who writes a book that concludes with the words "Connection is inevitable. Distraction is a choice" is going to advocate users seeing themselves as having the power to "tame ourselves."
But arguments that put all the onus back on the user let technology companies off the hook too easily. In a world where our attention is a commodity to be captured and resold, saying that all "we really need to do is tame ourselves" deflects attention away deflects attention away from the fact that designers spend monumental amounts of time styding how to get people to stay on Web sites or playing games a little longer.
Recognizing this fact doesn't absolve users of the responsibility for their own actions. It just makes clear how big an accomplishment it is when they succeed.