Wednesday, October 05, 2011

The Case for Non-Smart Phones

Last night at dinner, we enacted one of those favorite rituals you go through with older-generations (and, incidentally, my brother's girlfriend): laughing at their ridiculously out-dated phones. A flip phone? No data plan? A 1 megapixel camera? No apps? Ha! Even Grandpa's phone, with its voice recognition technology, is fancier! How do you survive? Sure, as pastimes go this is mostly harmless. But, I never quite feel right getting in on the action.

One classic reason why a dumb-phone is preferable over a smart-phone is articulated here: Why I Dumped My iPhone--And I'm Not Going Back. Basically, if you aren't careful, your soul will get swallowed up in all this technology. Before you know it you're paying more attention to a 2x3 inch screen than you are to the people around you.

And of course, there's the old I don't want to have to learn something new argument, which, I suppose I can also appreciate.

But, from my perspective, neither of these arguments really hold much sway. Nope, for me, using a dumb-phone is all about the Hawthore Effect. The Hawthore Effect goes like this:

The term was coined in 1950 by Henry A. Landsberger when analysing older experiments from 1924-1932 at the Hawthorne Works (a Western Electric factory outside Chicago). Hawthorne Works had commissioned a study to see if its workers would become more productive in higher or lower levels of light. The workers' productivity seemed to improve when changes were made and slumped when the study was concluded.

In other words, if you tweaked the work conditions one way (making it brighter), productivity improved, and you tweaked it the opposite way (making it dimmer), it also improved. The point wasn't the content of the change, but the fact that workers were trying something new.

I think switching styles of phones also falls into this pattern. Switch to a dumb phone and you get the benefit of not having technology weigh you down. Switch to a smart phone, and real problems (like, when is the next Metro train arriving), are solved.

As long as you have the right sense of adventure, then I say switch. You may just see a benefit. Of course, it works both ways. So, yeah, upgrade that old crufty phone to the latest model and enjoy. Or, take the retro approach, and get back to simplicity. It's all about your mindset, not the hardware.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:58 PM