This week’s reading was “Updating to Remain the Same, Habitual New Media” by Wendy Hui Kyong Chun. The book, which was published in 2016, is divided into two sections: Part I: Imagined Networks, Glocal Connections, and Part II: Privately Public: The Internet’s Perverse Subjects.
One thing that I realized while reading through this book was that I recognized a few references in the book— danah boyd, for one—and I was able to connect certain parts of the book to readings in my other classes, such as the section talking about trolling, harassment, and revenge pornography in regards to Amanda Todd and Steubenville, with Danielle Keats Citron’s “Hate Crimes in Cyberspace” (that I had to read for Media Law) which focuses on the legal action (or inaction) towards cyber-harassment.
One quote from the introduction made me really think about the state of certain technologies: “To be satisfied with what one has—to not want the next thing, the next upgrade–is to be out of synch.” This makes me think especially of Apple, which is notorious for purposefully creating a culture surrounding the increasingly constant need to upgrade technology, especially with iPhones. In order to keep up with the advances in technology that revolve around the iPhone, users cannot really use the same version of their iPhone for more than about two years or so. Recent controversy with Apple admitting to intentionally sending upgrades to older models of iPhones to degrade their performance so users must eventually upgrade. Additionally, iPhones and other Apple products frequently have iOS updates in order to update or use apps; without updating the iOS, it becomes harder and harder for users to use apps and stay in the loop. But updating the iOS can often require having more space or hardware that comes with having the newest phone. It is like almost vicious cycle—we upgrade our tech to stay up-to-date, but by the time we are able to fully enjoy any new features, it’s not long before there is something new that we must eventually adjust to. This has always been a source of minor irritation for me. I have had laptops, gaming systems, and other devices that can last over 10 years without needing to be upgraded or replaced. However, I—like so many others—like iPhones. I have had them since I was 17 years old, and I rely so much on my iPhone for a ridiculous number of things that it would be too much of an inconvenience to go without one.
Another quote from the book stuck with me: “Through habits users become their machine.” While this is perhaps not a new concept (with constant integration of technology into social and personal habits throughout history—like the written word becoming an inextricable part of human culture), smartphones have made it extremely hard for users to separate their habits from their technology. There are apps for finding dates, ordering food, getting rides, online shopping, and communicating with pretty much anyone; it seems as though we well on our way to catering all of our possible habits within the convenience of devices that fit into the palm of our hands.