Published on March 6, 2017 by Microsoft Research

“What do you do when you’re waiting for the bus?
Or waiting for a class to start?
Or waiting at the doctor’s office?
Or in line at the grocery store?

In this paper, I establish a dialogue between two discrete critical methodologies in order to consider the role of ‘distracted’ smartphone use within a socio-political context. By ‘distracted’ I am referring to the banal, everyday interactions we have with our smartphones throughout our day; the processes of swiping, tapping and gazing at our handheld devices, which occur dozens, if not hundreds of times a day, and which have taken on the appearance of a habit or social ‘tic’ (see also Caronia, 2005; Bittman et al. 2009).

Drawing on the work of Winnicott (1971) Lasch (1991), Silverstone (1993), Ribak, (2009) and Kullman (2010), I commute between psychoanalytic and political-economy methods in order to connect an analysis of distracted smartphone use to a broader discussion of social, political and economic precarity. Such an approach allows me to explore the relationship between the individual and society in order to identify how contemporary digital media practice is both a product of, and a response, to political, social and economic uncertainty. ”

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