Julian's blog: Mobile Madness!

January 5th, 2011
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I just recorded a show for the BBC World Service. It’s called The Forum, and I was honoured to be on with Charles Simic and Semir Zeki - eminent company indeed, and a fascinating discussion about creativity, perception and language ensued. The programme will be broadcast on the World Service and Radio 4, and also will be available as a podcast from the Forum’s website.

 

They ask me to rant with a controversial soapbox-style idea for 60 seconds. No problem ranting – but just for a minute? That’s tough! Anyway I thought it might amuse you to have the rant posted here, since it’s one that will resonate with many who care about sound. So here it is:

 

(rant starts)

 

We have licences and laws governing the use of our cars. There should now be licences and laws for the public use of mobile devices so that the weight of society is aligned to make inconsiderate people change their ways.

 

I’m talking about behaviour such as
   * causing a breach of the peace (especially in confined public spaces like buses and trains) by talking loudly on a mobile
   * irritating fellow travellers with music overspilling from headphones
   * playing distorted music through the inadequate loudspeakers of mobile phones in public places (‘sodcasting’)
   * street offences such as stopping short or causing an obstruction on a busy pavement while texting
   * holding loud and pompous conversations on mobiles (especially with headsets, and especially while pacing up and down in airport lounges and similar)
   * playing games with the beeps turned on
   * disrespecting people by having intimate or embarrassing conversations and thus effectively denying their existence and feelings.

 

At the moment, if someone is brave enough to complain, the result is often verbal or sometimes even physical abuse. We need to align the power of societal consensus so that just as jumping a red light is universally unacceptable, so are behaviours like sodcasting.

 

Penalties could be a range of device confiscation periods (just like losing your driving licence) and corrective educational courses. This would require mobile police (in every sense of the phrase) which could be a voluntary force much like the Guardians on the New York subway. But the weight should be on educating people, ideally starting in school, to be thoughtful, considerate and mindful of the consequences of their behaviour on others. That may be idealistic, but without a consensus and some way of enforcing it we are heading for a digitally connected but physically divided society.

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