Monday, June 09, 2008

The phone is the new identity locus

A USA Today story about the new iPhone has this throwaway line:
The software add-ons have the potential to turn the iPhone into the pocket computer of the future, as essential, Apple hopes, as the keys in your pocket or purse.
The reason we put things on our key fobs is that keys have, until recently, been the locus of our identity. We use keys to get into our own private spaces (home, office) and shared areas. So we keep them on us all the time.

The phone is the new locus of our identity. I don't know about you, but my phone is on or near me all but 1.5 hours per day (they don't allow them in the gym). I stow my keys in my luggage when I travel, but my phone is on me all the time. Keys represent access, but the phone represents communication and self-mediation, connecting me to all of my contexts and contacts. I suspect that's already true for many people, so the line from the USA Today piece seems a few years late.

It's presto, change-o as new iPhone is unveiled -
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Cesar said...
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Cesar said...

Totally agree with you.

Pundits keep saying that email is the original social network, but to me, phone numbers have always preceded email as the OG social network. Cell phones let you contact me wherever I am. Not to mention that my phone can even get email now.

Mobility is the future and nothing is as mobile as the, well, mobile phone.

Clay Spinuzzi said...

Right. As a kid, I lived on 13 acres of property, and we had wired the phone to an outside bell so that we could hear it anywhere on the property. If we heard the bell ring, the rule was to sprint to the house and answer it before the fifth ring. We didn't think, we just sprinted.

The problem, of course, was that although people would act as if they were calling people - "I'm going to give Clay a call" - they were actually calling a location. That Rolodex, with its home and office numbers, was really a list of locales that could be contacted. If someone could sprint fast enough to answer your call, you might be able to make contact and ask for the party you were trying to contact.

Now we call *people*. The shift is so total that I get very tense if someone calls my mobile trying to reach my wife, or if my wife has to borrow my mobile because she has forgotten hers. (To me, that's like forgetting one's arm.) The phone is the identity.