Slowly and gently

My mobile is about two years old. Not exactly an ancient model, but with different smartphones being released almost everyday claiming to be more revolutionary than the latest, it certainly feels like one.

And I imagine peer pressure against it would have been higher if I were in Korea now.

1st iPhone subscriber in Korea
Photo from ZDNet

Since the long-awaited release of the iPhone about a month ago, the country’s latest fixation is on “mobile office”. In the name of efficiency, major corporations such as Samsung and Doosan have already provided new smartphones to their employees. Bills are taken care of too. This “benefit package” initially sounded good – ‘Oh! A fancy phone for free?’ – but was immediately followed by a concerned voice [for example, articles here and here; both in Korean] that this would threaten employees’ well-being, as those phones blur the boundary between the workplace and home. The sole beneficiary in this case is, so the criticism goes, the company. They now expect their employees to be reachable and be able to act upon work-related correspondences whenever and wherever. A conspiracy to make you work even more? Well, in fewer words.

The following article in the WSJ was relayed around online last summer.

A Manifesto for Slow Communication – by John Freeman

Although I am a card-carrying gadget junkie, I found myself generally sympathetic to the writer of this particular essay. Especially as I have spent so much time on the train for the past couple of months, now and then I feel like I should have made better use of this time by being online, checking my email or searching information, etc. However, that would mean never being truly able to take a break from professional commitments. So, my ancient phone, which even sometimes turns itself off temperamentally, might be somehow doing me good. Just perhaps.

This is not something I’ve only realised. I have always appreciated all classical texts on this topic such as In Praise of Idleness by Bertrand Russell (1932) and The Right to be Lazy by Paul Lafargue (1883), to name a few. (I have consciously left out those recently emerging slow movements here though.) But for me, the irony couldn’t have been better encapsulated than in the following conversation between Jesse and Céline in Before Sunrise (1995).

Jesse: You know what drives me crazy?

Céline: What?

Jesse: It’s all these people talking about how great technology is and how it saves all this time. But what good is saved time, if nobody uses it? If it just turns into more busy work.

Céline: Yeah.

Jesse: Right, I mean, you never hear somebody say, “Well, you know, with uh, the time I’ve saved by using my word processor, I’m gonna go to a Zen monastery and hang out.” I mean, you never hear that.

A clip from the film linked here – 1 minute 56 seconds in.


5 thoughts on “Slowly and gently

  1. When I commuted regularly by train I used the time as deliberately dead space just to reflect on the day ahead and the day just past. Now whenever I take the train into the city I listen to music to blot out the sound of everybody else’s phone, iPod etc. So maybe your phone IS doing you a favor.

    BTW, the link to the John Freeman post seems to be broken.

    • Yes, music would be a good option but not for me. I can’t do earphones/headphones. (Oh, I just sounded like a grandma, didn’t I? 😛 )

      BTW, the link has now been fixed.

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