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In no other administration has the President taken "selfies" that are posted to social media. From left to right: Bill Nye the Science Guy, President Barack Obama, and celebrity astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Photo by: via Bill Nye

Photo of the week - Living in a Sea of Smartphones

by / September 2, 2014

Though long familiar with fanfare, the Queen of England recently remarked how “strange” it was to be now so frequently met with a sea of smartphones everywhere she went.

U.S. ambassador Matthew Barzun relayed the Queen’s sentiments on the matter in saying it’s the eye contact she misses. The Queen’s courtiers expressed similar disapproval last year following reception by BBC staff upon her arrival to the revamped Broadcasting House in central London.

The Queen is not alone in her vexation with the public’s technological obsession. Several restaurants have begun offering discounts to customers who leave their devices turned off or checked at the door. Many popular musicians have also commented on the barrier that technology has wedged between their performance and their audiences, the concept of an intimate connection between artist and fan growing more alien with each new iteration of Apple’s mobile operating system. Indie rock group Yeah Yeah Yeahs posted a sign at a concert last year asking fans “please do not watch the show through a screen on your smart device/camera.” Alt rock group Cake was ahead of the curve in 2008 when they released the song No Phone, which reiterates an obvious message through a chorus of “no phone, no phone, I just want to be alone today.”

U.S. Cellular, in an effort to reinforce how important it is for people to stay connected with one another, earlier this year, created the No Phone Challenge, in which the public was challenged to go seven days without a mobile device. The idea that leaving a $400 electronic device at home is considered difficult and that cell phone separation anxiety is a legitimate medical condition are each signs of the times, badges of the immeasurable degree to which digital technology is transforming physical and cultural landscapes around the world.

The Queen was right. It’s all very strange.

--Colin Wood