While listening to an older Bret Easton Ellis podcast (his fantastic interview with Kanye West after the launch of Yeezus), the thought struck me that we don’t give enough recognition to the smart phone as a medium in its own right.
Easton Ellis was discussing how cinema used to be a controlling (his choice of word) medium. He talked about how, when films would only be shown in the theater, the medium controlled the viewer rather than the other way around. The film started at a certain time, and would continue whether you wanted to go the bathroom or not. Today, of course, the control is firmly with the viewer, who can start and stop at any time, or move the viewing experience between screens. Easton Ellis may or may not be right in lamenting the decline of the power of film.
However, an interesting corollary is the simultaneous rise in the control of the smart phone. Smart phones are now the controlling medium of our time. Recent apps have popped up showing users how often and how much they use their phones per day (e.g. Checky) showing that we are under strict control of our phones.
As any medium in its youth, like the TV or the Internet before it, smart phones are still not being seen as a respectable medium. It’s more common to see articles pointing out increased shallowness and shortening of attention spans coming from the usage of smart phones rather than articles praising their immediacy and proximity to our experiences.
This will probably change as new apps develop and get more and more high brow.