Feeds

Intel admits tech can be tedious

Of RVs, backpackers and techno determinism fatigue

Top three mobile application threats

Genevieve Bell has a message for technologists who espouse the self-serving view that the more cell phone, laptops and other gizmos we integrate into our life the happier we'll be: people often get fed up.

That notion may be obvious to anyone who has experienced the simultaneous, and seemingly unending, flow of instant messages, emails and ringing phones, all proclaiming to be urgent. But you generally won't hear it from the companies who are trying to force their hardware and software down our throats.

Until now.

Bell is a "resident anthropologist" at Intel, who has conducted years of research into everyday people's attitudes about technology. Her finding is that people are frequently looking for a respite.

"Someone once said to me they thought of their cell phone and the bundle of technology in their backpack as being like a nest of chirping birds and all the little mouths of baby birds all demanding to be fed," Bell said to a small gathering of reporters. "It had gotten to this point that what they really wanted to do was fling their backpack into the river."

Bell reached the conclusion by observing people somewhat out of the mainstream. She's spent a fair amount of time studying enthusiasts of recreational vehicles, backpackers and people who own second homes, usually used for several months out of the year as vacation spots. The idea: these seekers of alternative abodes can tell us a lot about the way we all would prefer to live.

The finding is that people often feel compelled to add ever more devices to their daily arsenals and this "techno determinism" leads to fatigue. One of the chief reasons people sought out second homes, she said, was for the permission it gave them not to answer phones or check email accounts. People often opted to read local newspapers printed on dead trees, rather than browsing news sites, too.

"What becomes really interesting is: is there a connection between that desire to not have to answer ringing phones and a sense we have recently moved into a time when there is an extraordinary amount of pressure in our lives from technology?" she said.

Beyond the weariness, people can also grow tired with the lack of local distinction that comes from global networks that beam pictures, IMs and dispatches from around the world. What second-home people are yearning for, she said, are destinations with a distinctive local feel, whether it's cuisine, geographic locations or unique cultures.

At first blush, we are a bit suspicious of the research. People who go through that much trouble to seek out alternative living situations are much more likely to be dissatisfied with their current one, and that probably includes their technology devices. It's a little bit like polling a group of reforming alcoholics about what they think about scotch. (Bell says people outside the mainstream are often more useful in determining attitudes of the whole, though we didn't entirely understand why.)

That said, it's refreshing to hear someone in the tech world provide an alternative to the usual Utopian drivel assigned to the latest inventions.

Another contrarian view we found notable: second-homers are much more attached to television than the internet. With all the talk about YouTube becoming the new paradigm, that is sure to stick in the craw of some people. The idea is that TVs are simple devices that don't have to be rebooted and require minimal amounts of time to learn how to be used. Spend 15 minutes with a first-time PC or Mac user and it's easy to agree with her assessment.

Of course, Intel's objective in commissioning such research isn't to contradict all its flashy advertising that shows how exhilarating it is to use a PC with a Core 2 Duo inside. Rather, the chipmaker wants to use the research to reshape attitudes and develop products that are more pleasant to use.

"Outside of the tech elite our laptops still are really seen as work objects," she reasons. "How do you make it less like a brief case or a typewriter and more like something else?" ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
This time it's 'Personal': new Office 365 sub covers just two devices
Redmond also brings Office into Google's back yard
Kingston DataTraveler MicroDuo: Turn your phone into a 72GB beast
USB-usiness in the front, micro-USB party in the back
Dropbox defends fantastically badly timed Condoleezza Rice appointment
'Nothing is going to change with Dr. Rice's appointment,' file sharer promises
Inside the Hekaton: SQL Server 2014's database engine deconstructed
Nadella's database sqares the circle of cheap memory vs speed
BOFH: Oh DO tell us what you think. *CLICK*
$%%&amp Oh dear, we've been cut *CLICK* Well hello *CLICK* You're breaking up...
Just what could be inside Dropbox's new 'Home For Life'?
Biz apps, messaging, photos, email, more storage – sorry, did you think there would be cake?
Amazon reveals its Google-killing 'R3' server instances
A mega-memory instance that never forgets
Cisco reps flog Whiptail's Invicta arrays against EMC and Pure
Storage reseller report reveals who's selling what
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.