On my radar: The currency of (non)connectivity

2013-03-24 10:00

Isaac Newton’s third law of motion states that “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”.

The same seems to apply to trends, especially technology trends.

Take smartphones. Today, our phones not only hold all our contacts and connections, but also our day-to-day diary, birthday and anniversary reminders, our notes-to-self (if you haven’t tried Evernote, you should) and of course our always-with-us camera, which fuels our social media feeds.

This kind of connectivity is all well and good, but it does cause conflict when it comes to physical, interpersonal interactions.

Meal times are particularly stressful.

No one ever thought that getting people to lift their heads from their phones, simply to share a meal, would become such a challenge.

This is where the first push-back started.

About 18 months ago, the “equal and opposite reaction” to cellphone intrusion began somewhat demurely.

Online shopping portal uncommongoods.com designed some ingenious table napkins to wrap your phone in during a meal.

Once wrapped, the embroidered words “you have my full attention” appeared on the top.

But the challenge of having a meal without cellphone interruption is obviously a greater war with many battles to fight. Enter phone stacking.

The game works best when a group of friends go out for dinner.

Everyone places his or her cellphone in the middle of the table, stacked on top of each other, face down.

During the meal, it is inevitable that someone’s phone is going to go off.

The first person to break down and reach for their phone has to pay the bill for the entire table.

Using peer-to-peer pressure to limit cellphone addiction may be clever, but it was just a matter of time before this challenge would be commercialised.

A clothing boutique in New York launched a novel and unique marketing drive.

Apartment 32 is the flagship store of clothing brand Weatherproof.

The store is laid out to look like a trendy apartment and the store assistants are referred to as “residents” while the shoppers are treated as “house guests”.

However, the house rule for all “house guests” is to check your smartphone in at the door.

Store owner Freddie Stollmack says that they provide a venue for people to enjoy face-to-face conversation.

But if you really want to up the stakes, you need to revisit the real conflict zone – meal times – and, in particular, at a restaurant.

In Los Angeles, restaurant owner Mark Gold cleverly tapped into two big trends: technology disruption and diminishing disposable income.

Unlike Apartment 32 in New York, diners who come to eat at Eva’s have a choice of checking in their phones on arrival, but if they do, they receive a 5% discount on their meal.

Unsurprisingly, more than 50% of his customers have taken up the offer and no one has yet to ask for their phone back during their meal, which basically supports the old adage that “money talks” – or in this case, “discounts reignite conversation”.

» Chang is the founder of Flux Trends. Visit www.fluxtrends.com

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