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"Keep Your Thumbs Still When I’m Talking to You" by David Carr

This article (well, it's sort of a cross between an article and a personal opinion piece, I guess) discusses electronic device etiquette. It says what you might expect it to say: People stare into their little screens in public and with friends. Is this rude? Is it destroying social connections? Shouldn't we put our devices down more often?

Personally, I think these things should be worked out between the people who are trying to communicate with each other. I find it stressful to stare at screens and try to socialize at the same time, and I enjoy putting everything down and just sitting and taking the world in. But I don't care to tell other people what to do.

I also enjoy knitting while talking to someone and some people think that means I'm not paying attention to them, but in fact it helps me listen more closely (well, if I'm knitting something uncomplicated).

So I don't think that looking away from someone if they're talking is inherently ignoring them.

But I also know that I can't attend to two language streams at the same time, so texting while having a conversation might not be the same as knitting while having a conversation.

What really fascinates me, though, is the image that was chosen to accompany the article, which comes right after the title. A young conventionally attractive Asian woman is standing and using her electronic device, while a young conventionally attractive white man crouches in front of her, with his hand on her arm, and makes a "screeching in distress" face. Accompanied by the title "Keep Your Thumbs Still When I’m Talking to You," it seems like there is a subtextual race and gender message.

It's always been the case that there is a power dynamic involved in "who gets to divide their attention and who doesn't."

Other than that I'm not sure I can put the race and gender messages of the image into words.

Can you?

This entry was originally posted at http://firecat.dreamwidth.org/714460.html, where there are comment count unavailable comments.


( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 17th, 2011 06:32 pm (UTC)
The title of the piece is nice and 'Do as you're told!' bossy too.

When I'm talking to you niggles at me as well. Not when we're talking or when I am talking with you. Combine that imperative title and that picture and it all comes across a little bit like 'I am entitled to your attention and to dictate what you do with your body parts while I have that attention.'

Apr. 18th, 2011 06:30 am (UTC)
I agree, there's something bossy and patronizing about the whole thing.
Apr. 17th, 2011 06:45 pm (UTC)
I expect they set up the shot in an attempt to avoid any obvious race/gender messages, and ended up sending a weird or un-obvious message.
Apr. 17th, 2011 07:54 pm (UTC)
I agree. Even two actors posing would coordinate on some sort of context; this is just photoshopped from unrelated sources.

As is, the girl might be oblivious to a parent or other authority -- but the man isn't acting like one. If someone was really screaming for her attention, she'd at least look annoyed. ;-)
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 18th, 2011 03:41 am (UTC)
Smart Malkin is smart.
Apr. 17th, 2011 08:14 pm (UTC)
The photo makes them both look like assholes.
Apr. 17th, 2011 10:07 pm (UTC)
Subtextual, my ass. If that doesn't say, "No woman (especially a young, attractive woman) has the right to ignore a man who wants her attention," I've never seen anything that did. With a side of "How DARE you not recognize my wanting to fuck you?"

My attention was further caught by this, down in the article:

I prefer to experience the thing itself over the experience of telling people I’m doing the thing.

And that, IME, is not limited to things you do with a smartphone. Last summer, on our Western-parks vacation, I caught myself a couple of times looking at things -- really beautiful things -- more with an eye to getting a picture of them than for really seeing them, there in the moment. Yes, it's nice to have the pictorial record, but I want the actual memories as well.
Apr. 18th, 2011 06:35 am (UTC)
If that doesn't say, "No woman (especially a young, attractive woman) has the right to ignore a man who wants her attention," I've never seen anything that did. With a side of "How DARE you not recognize my wanting to fuck you?"

Yeah, I was getting something like that.

I know what you mean about photo-taking. And then there's reading the signs about a site rather than looking at the site itself.
Apr. 18th, 2011 01:40 am (UTC)
At work, I generally don't answer the phone or email when somebody is talking to me at my cube, unless they are just gossiping and the phone call is from the boss (or otherwise presumably work-related).

(Deleted comment)
Apr. 18th, 2011 06:38 am (UTC)

Yes, I have that reaction to many New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and other media sources' lifestyle articles that talk about supposed new trends. "Oooh, aren't we cool and modern?"
Apr. 18th, 2011 09:51 am (UTC)
It's why I dropped my subscription to WIRED years ago.  It was making me feel like it would be normal to spend thousands on a home theater. And and and.
Apr. 18th, 2011 03:01 am (UTC)
Type mismatch. The man looks like a cartoon, unrealistic. The girl looks realistic -- but not with a cartoonish man holding her elbow and yelling in her face.

Showing a young person or employee ignoring an older person or boss would fit the article. But for that they should have used a cartoonish girl too.
Apr. 18th, 2011 06:38 am (UTC)
I thought the type mismatch was weird too.
Apr. 18th, 2011 03:22 am (UTC)
"Keep your thumbs still when I'm talking to you" sounds parental to me, and not necessarily in a very good way, either. I don't see how it has any place in a conversation between equals.

Apr. 18th, 2011 06:39 am (UTC)
sounds parental to me, and not necessarily in a very good way, either.

Yes indeed.
Apr. 19th, 2011 08:17 am (UTC)
small aside re headline
Just to note that David Carr wouldn't have written the headline.

David Carr, btw: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/20/magazine/20Carr-t.html?ref=davidcarr&pagewanted=all
Apr. 19th, 2011 10:04 am (UTC)
Re: small aside re headline
Yeah, there wasn't anything creepy about the actual article, just the photo and headline.

It's interesting how many different lives some people manage to lead.
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )

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