Question 83 of 365: What does it mean to be device free?

A Motorola DynaTAC 8000X from 1984. This phone...
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We are dependent upon our computers for our livelihoods and our entertainment. We are dependent upon our cell phones for communication and connection. We are dependent upon dozens of technologies in our daily lives but if we were more accurate with this dependency, we are dependent upon specific devices. The computer that you use is yours, it is an extension of you to a great extent. So it isn’t just a computer, but rather YOUR computer. And the cell phone, is your blackberry or iPhone or Android device. You have tricked these things out just the way you like them, and it matters that you have done this because it makes you feel ownership over them. It makes them feel like they have been watched over and cultivated for your personal use rather than just anyone who can pick them up.

If you lost those particular devices, you might feel a sense of loss that is strange and compelling. It might feel like your right arm is gone or that you have lost a part of your history because of what was on that device. It is this weird notion that we are that connected to our technology, but I would like to make the case that this type of attachment may be ending.

Even as we are heading into the world of amazingly tactile electronics and personal experiences with those devices, I believe that our goal should be to achieve total device freedom. We should stop seeing our devices as the personalized entities that are capable of bringing us joy and agony through the process of creating with those tools. It is my belief that we need to be looking for any way that we can to achieve a total lack of ownership from any given device that we may have purchased or been gifted.

I come to this conclusion out of necessity, I suppose. Yesterday, my computer crashed. It was an absolute failure, not something that could be fixed by any amount of hacking or troubleshooting. The operating system just refused to move beyond the first 30 lines of operation in the command line view. It is what you might call a dead computer.

And I felt nothing. While I wasn’t super thrilled about having to use a different machine while this one goes into the shop, I really didn’t feel that I had lost anything too important. In fact, I felt free. I felt as though anything that I could get in my hands would allow me to continue the work that I had started that morning when my computer was working just fine.

I realized in that moment that there is literally nothing I can’t do in the cloud.

My photos are on Flickr. My movies are on Youtube. My files are on Google Docs. My contacts are in Gmail and Gist. My audio and image editing are on Aviary. My ideas are in WordPress. My music is on Last.fm. My community is in Twitter. My bookmarks are on Delicious.

Hyperlinks are my hard-drive.

While some would claim that this isn’t good, that I am just asking for one of these services to go under and then I would feel the loss that I should have felt without my computer, but I believe that these services too are inconsequential. I can move from one to another without thinking twice. I can import and export. I can backup and restore. But, true freedom is in knowing that no single device holds “me” within it.

In fact, the only thing that holds all of these services together is my identity. And that isn’t wrapped up in any single device. While I like my Macbook Pro, I don’t need it to have my identity with me. While gmail is my happy home for most of my official communication, I could filter and funnel and work around any slippage of that service.

There was a time when my devices owned me, but that is no longer the case. It is thanks to the cloud, a better understanding of how to store things for better access and simply knowing myself well enough to believe recreating the world around me every day is possible.

So, I think that we should strive for this type of freedom. We should be free to have things break, free to lose huge chunks of data from those formerly important devices, and free to reimagine how we interact with those things that we interact with.

I am not my computer, and that is kind of nice.

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0 Comments

  1. i love this post.
    i wish more people would get this…
    i've found that same sense of freedom when i moved to the cloud.

    all i haven't moved are my pictures. so flickr? you must pay for that – yes? in order to hold them all…

  2. jacquelinecahill

    I think this post is extremely vital. Unfortunately, I don't think individuals realize this until it is too late. I am a wee-bit old school…been backing everything up on USBs and delicious. I love the link you sent me the other day though, and I have it on my summer list to move everything from my computer to dropbox. This will make traveling so much easier and not make me check 5x to see if I have my USB on me. 🙂 Thanks for the reminder and the link.

  3. You really don't have to wait until summer. It takes about 3 minutes to
    install and then copy files. However, I understand the hesitation that a lot
    of people have about putting things in the cloud and not on a physical USB
    stick.

    I don't think back-up is old school at all. The majority of people don't
    back up at all.

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