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The Search for the Digital Life Off Switch Is Futile - There Isn’t One

The Search for the Digital Life Off Switch Is Futile – There Isn’t One

No switch to turn it off… but sometimes, oh don’t you just long for an off switch even temporarily, if not an absolute kill switch?

After the summer will come the autumn run up/count down to the Christmas bonanza and Apple are determined to be up there still with the big players in the quest for your cash.

As part of a software update they are revealing Activation Lock which is in effect, a kill switch. It will remotely deactivate iPhones that are stolen.

Thieves will be prevented from turning off the Find My iPhone app, so it can still be tracked by GPS. They intend that it will render pointless the theft of the gadget in the first place.

Others Following

Never far behind (and soon in front?) Samsung will be bringing in similar preventative measures (LoJack) in its next handset. They’re likely to charge an eye-watering £20 subscription a year, but it’ll be cheaper than the hassle of losing a smartphone.

Phone theft has reached the levels of an epidemic – 10,000 a month in London alone. Multiply that around the world, and you get a flavour of the problem, which often leads to other crimes.

Manufacturers are being urged to stop it. In July London Mayor Boris Johnson demanded trans-Atlantic collaboration to stamp it out.

The line now is that companies who make and sell the devices have a corporate obligation to defend them on behalf of the legal buyers. That kind of people power will surely prove irresistible in what is effectively a mature market, the smartphone one.

The Elusive Off Switch

From Now On is a digital technology journal, and in the September 2011 edition, John Mikton posed the question: ‘Where is the off switch?’ from devices, emails, social networks, the internet and digital life in general?’

For him, a long cycling trip creates a way to isolate, disconnect from ‘all the rings, tasks, needs, wants, musts and maybes we get caught up in our digital life.’ He creates ‘headspace’ and day dreams. “You generate in your head space for nothing.’

He argued that as digital devices are integrated so every aspect of work and home lives develop a dependence which is ‘invisible in our lives.’ As each generation comes along adopting this as part of their ‘social fabric and consciousness’, there arises a ‘collective dependency on seamless connectivity.’

He called it a ‘new social bargain’ with people’s past worlds of payphones, post, faxes, newsgroups, landlines and limited connectedness creating their natural privacy, now gone. Digital footprints outside anybody’s control have changed all that was once done.

Is Connectivity Really a Must?

Mikton said today’s ‘nonstop connectivity and diminishing privacy’ is a ‘different reference point’ for today’s generation. He said that today ‘connectivity is a must.’ Therefore, the off switch is no longer available.

While describing all this as a form of necessary evolution, in the interests of creativity by artists, musicians, philosophers and thinkers to sit with space for nothing ‘to create marvels’, we each need to find the spaces to disconnect on our own. We can’t switch it all off, as the digital trail is 24/7 and FOREVER, but we can at least take a break, take a few minutes out to teach people that they do not have to be totally dependent on it.

Mikton is right. The human being is remarkably adaptive, resilient and inventive. He/she can still think independently in many areas. Long may it be so…

Posts which are part of this debate:

Now You Can Be in Two Places At Once After All, 9 July 2013

Snoopers’ Charter Stirs Up the Controversy All Over Again, 19 June 2013

Creative Arts On the Brain, Quite Literally, 18 June 2013

No Escape As Emails Are Now 100 a Day Habit for Office Workers, 3 June 2013

Current Top Ten of Things to Hate And Rage About Communication Technology Today, 15 May 2013

Compulsive, Addictive Behaviour Is the Price of the Device, 23 April 2013

A Great Idea for a Short Story, Novel, Film About the Future, 9 April 2013

Digital Footprints Can Follow You and Your Job Prospects for a Long Time, 26 March 2013

The Right to Be Forgotten Is Probably Just Wishful Thinking, 12 March 2013

Life-Logging Is Not the Harmless Fun It’s Portrayed to Be, 6 February 2013

Will Your Digital Afterlife Make a Good Novel After You Are Dead? 10 September 2012

Old Rockers Don’t Die, They Keep On Rolling Forever, 7 August 2012