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Thinking about Time and Technology for Academic Work

My phone is on its way out. It’s an Iphone 5 and my service contract has expired, so I should probably upgrade. But I’m not a fan of the current Iphone 6 — it just seems too big to me, even in it’s non-phablet form. Because I’ve read that Apple is planning to release a smaller Iphone 6 soon, I’m waiting to get a new one. (Not always very patiently waiting, sigh.)

This self-imposed waiting for a new phone has required a few recent behavior modifications on my part. One of the ways that the phone is breaking is that there’s something loose inside that makes an audible noise when I move it too quickly, so no more shake to undo if I type (or delete) something I want to revert, a feature I use infrequently but do like. I also can’t really turn my phone off anymore because it crashes repeatedly for the first 10 minutes or so that I turn it back on. And the battery life + indicator have both gotten a bit flaky — sometimes the battery seems to drain faster than it should (occasionally in combination with the phone getting warm), and other times the battery indicator doesn’t change at all, even when I’ve been using the phone for a while and I know the indicator should be going down.

All of this wonkiness combined has meant that I have to think about my phone much more than usual. Specifically, I have to think about whether it’s charged, when I might need to charge it, and where I can charge it. I’ve started to bring my charger everywhere and actively scope out places to plug my phone in when I’m not using it, even if the battery seems full. This is a big change for me — I used to carry my charger only on days when I knew I’d be out and using my phone heavily (hello, conference Twitter). Now the first thing I do when I get into my office is plug in my phone, and the same with the classroom where I teach this semester. On a recent train trip I was made somewhat anxious when the train was too full for me to get a window seat adjacent to an outlet and had to sit on the aisle; lucky for me at one of the major stops someone next to a window got off and I was able to change seats. I also sometimes use my laptop to charge my phone now, depending on how long I need to use the laptop.

I realize that this is more detail that you ever needed to know about me and my phone habits. It’s the most minor of inconveniences, really, but the time I spend thinking about dealing with (and then dealing with) my semi-functional phone is time I could spend doing other things, and requires me to work around the technology in ways that I didn’t have to when the phone was fully functional.

This has been on my mind recently as Mariana and I are working on a project about the ways that technology shapes time for our students. Technology can be incredibly useful for our students’ academic work; the student we met during our first round of research several years ago who talked to us about writing her papers on her smartphone on the subway is the example that springs to mind most readily. But if that student has to print her paper to hand it in, and she prints on campus because it’s free (even if she has a printer at home), and there’s a long line or a jam at the printer when she gets to the library, time saved by technology can become time stolen. She is working around the technology rather than having the technology work for her, and there are real implications for her academic work.

These are just some preliminary thoughts as we begin to dig into our project — we’ll share more about this project as we go.