A SOCIOLOGY OF THE SMARTPHONE

  ©Alexander Koerner/Getty Images

©Alexander Koerner/Getty Images

Smartphones have altered our everyday life, digesting many longstanding spaces and rituals, and transforming others beyond recognition. The smartphone has become the signature artifact of our age. Less than a decade old, this object has become the universal, all-but-indispensable part of everyday life. Very few manufactured objects have ever been as ubiquitous as these glowing slabs of polycarbonate.

For many of us, they are the last thing we look at before sleep each night, and the first thing we reach for upon waking. We use them to meet people, to communicate, to entertain ourselves, and to find our way around. We buy and sell things with them. We rely on them to document the places we go, the things we do and the company we keep; we count on them to fill the dead spaces, the still moments and silences that used to occupy so much of our lives.

Today, the arrangements through which we allocate resources, transact value, seek to exert form on the material world, share our stories with one another, and organize ourselves into communities and polities will draw upon a fundamentally new set of concepts and practices, and this is a horizon of possibilities that first opened up to us in equipping ourselves with the smartphone.