Monday, 6 August 2012

Dumb phones, the dangers of iWalking

The Web 3.0 Lab looks at the intersection of social life and emerging mobile web technology, and despite some wonderful examples of people communicating and expressing themselves with new cheap mobile technology, there are obvious dangers.

 The video above shows a man so consumed by his smartphone that he almost walks into a bear. Yes you read that correctly. A man was so distracted walking with his mobile phone he almost walked right into a bear on the street.

 As unlikely as this might seem this collection of minor accidents caused by our inability to put down the web connectivity probably will be more familiar to many of us. TechCrunch has noted a few examples of the growing problem:

An estimated 1,152 people were sent to the emergency room last year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The stories of distracted texting as saddening as they are hilarious. Some highlights from the data:
  • A 24-year-old woman who walked into a telephone pole while texting; 
  • A 28-year-old man who was walking along a road when he fell into a ditch while talking on a cellphone 
  • A 12-year-old boy who was looking at a video game when he was clipped by a pickup truck as he crossed the street 
  • A 53-year-old woman who fell off a curb while texting and lacerated her face.

Distracted Walking Injuries Quadruple — Mobile Devices to Blame?

Certainly people need to be a bit more careful, but is this a real problem or just another example of web panic that grips the media, or worse is this a problem we are just going to ignore. A depressing case study of how real problems caused by use of the Internet is how we deal with pedophiles on the web. About 5 years ago there was a moral panic in much of the media about pedophile grooming on the web. Though certainly a real risk the levels of media hype about the problem were clearly about of proportion to the real danger. Then every new parent in America and Western Europe got a Facebook account. Now we see people posting images of new born children, of family plays, and of 5 year old daughters in bride's maid pictures all over Facebook, where they can circulate in the web along with more data about yourself than you relieve you may have given out. A serious problem was first hyped then ignored, but never dealt with. Perhaps the same problem will take place with distracted walking. 

Distracted walking was probably only really a problem in places like MIT and University of Chicago before the birth of the mobile phone, and 1,152 emergency room visits in a nation of over 300,000,000 people is not a massive crisis. These numbers are about how many young people take up smoking every day in the US.

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