April 2015, Melbourne, by Josh Nettheim
Daniel, Kathy and Rita
Daniel lives with his partner Kathy and her teenage daughter Rita. Daniel and Kathy co-run an agency that deals with corporate coaching to improve business performance in face-to-face communication. Although they are based at home, Kathy is often out of the office, and uses her phone to liaise with prospective clients via calls and emails and to keep in touch with Daniel and Rita. Aside from the business, Daniel works as a freelance vocal coach, using his phone for anything from pitch recognition to reading the paper between appointments. Rita has just purchased a new laptop which she takes everywhere—along with her iPad—mainly because her phone is currently not at the top of it’s game. While the three family members have vastly different media habits, their home workspaces are uncannily similar…
Having spent much of his life as a performer and director across the globe, Daniel loathes routine, which sees him frequently taking on side projects to break up the “linearity” of existence. Although technology sometimes frustrates Daniel—especially small screens and slow loading times—aside from unpacking the dishwasher his laptop is the first thing he reaches for in the morning, often using it laptop to watch YouTube videos and upload music to his phone—which he then plays on weekday evenings when he conducting a local choir.
Daniel takes the train where he can and uses this time to check texts and emails because he hates loud phone conversations on public transport. Driving is Daniel’s quiet time and he no longer even listens to radio in the car, preferring the company of his thoughts. Daniel also dislikes headphones—except when he wakes in the middle of the night and listens to addresses from inspirational people his phone to get back to sleep.
Kathy believes that her technological engagement is largely work related, although she uses Skype fairly regularly to keep in touch with family and friends overseas and is very keen on upgrading the home data allowance to account for her recent interest in NetFlix. Having spent much of her life actively living “off the grid”, Kathy’s views on technology are mixed. It doesn’t frustrate her as it does Daniel, but Kathy worries about the effects of screen multiplicity on attention spans—in particular, her daughter’s. While concerned with long-term effects of electromagnetic waves, Kathy keeps her phone handy whenever she is without either Daniel or Rita, but once one is present, phone duties are immediately transferred.
Kathy is happy to share data and Wi-Fi with family but will not let anyone touch her laptop.
Rita’s phone recently skipped through a puddle, but that hasn’t stopped her from staying connected to family and friends through her brand-new laptop which follows her almost everywhere, in or out of the home.
Rita herself dislikes using devices in social settings—unless she feels awkward—but if Rita is at home on a Friday night, she relies on her friends to keep her informed as to what is happening at the party. For Rita, not being invited is one thing, but not knowing is infinitely worse, even if that real-time knowledge makes her feel real-time isolated. Rita’s Instagram profile is carefully crafted, and she thinks of witty captions long before taking the photo to match. Instagram is so important to Rita that sometimes—much to the dismay of Kathy—Rita wishes her profile were her actual life.