Lazarus/Zombie devices

On waiting and killing time: doing hanging around is a paper by Mark Perry that would surely be of interest for Karen Martin, Arianna Bassoli and Johanna Brewer who organized a workshop on this topic ("Waiting: a workshop on place/time and future technologies"). In this short paper, the author explores what he calls "the reality of waiting" and inevitably, this lead to the concept of "dead time" that lots of tech designers try to fill in with crazy technologies; based on the assumption that dead moment needed to be filled:

Information technology use plays an important role in contemporary waiting, especially through the mobile telephone, which allows us to act somewhere other than where we are waiting. We have called these technologies (see Perry and Brodie, 2005) Lazarus devices (reviving dead time), although more realistically they should be seen as Zombie devices (only partial reanimation). (...) Industry rhetoric would like us to think about technology as a post-modern agent in ‘the death of time’, but our data does not suggest this; rather it can offer a resource to making more effective use of our time, or to perform our activities in a different way or temporal sequence. But this is hardly radical. People make use of this technology (in the same way that they used paper previously) precisely because they are waiting, and not because the concept of waiting has been weakened or vanquished. (...) technology developments can do more than simply allow us to fill this time with things that we could only otherwise do elsewhere (...) we could improve the quality of the waiting rather than trying to diminish its resource constraining effects on our plans.

I really liked this excerpt too because I find quite revealing:

This perspective on the wait differs from those expressed earlier, in the notion of work-as-waiting. Certainly, the time is being filled, but worthlessly, and is consequently experienced as a drag. A similar view can be seen in the groups of teenagers hanging around fast food restaurants, perpetually waiting for some (often never actuating) event to happen (often termed ‘loitering’, not just the neutral form of waiting)

Why do I blog this working on consulting projects regarding mobile/casual gaming, I have always been amazed by this tendency to fill dead moments. But the situation is really more complicated (not to mention the benefits of "down moments") The arguments described in this paper interestingly address those issues. Besides, there will be a lot to discuss on the "aggregated waiting experience" topic but I leave that for another time.