Reading Response 6 – Chipchase Chapter 4: You are what you carry

This week’s readings talks about the things we carry and how they define us. From the physical objects that we carry daily, namely, keys, money (wallet) and mobile phone (communication), we are able to easily pinpoint the essential needs of us as a human. This reminded me of an exercise I once had in a class during my exchange in Chicago last year. We were told to empty our bags and document the things that we bring out. We were then told to determine which of these things were really needed daily and which were just brought alone out of habit or precautions? During this exercise, many students justify items other than those aforementioned had become a inseparable part to them. Thinking back to this interesting exercise after reading Chipchase’s chapter on the things we carry, I think I can comprehend what Chipchase meant in terms of how we tend to bring unnecessary things with us no matter if we are from 1st world countries or 3rd world countries.

Moving on, Chipchase discussed about how technological advancements allowed us to carry less out but bring with us more information instead. To me what was most obvious was the fact that we are able to navigate well throughout any place as long as we have our data connection and GPS. Thankfully, I was born in such an era, otherwise, with almost zero sense of direction I would have to carry tons of paper maps when I travel. However, technology tends to fail us momentarily. I would once again use an example from my exchange in the States. During a road trip at a town in Michigan state, the GPS that I was heavily reliant on told me: “I am not sure how to direct you”. It was during such moments when I never felt more lost, travelling on a highway at an unfamiliar town in a foreign country. It also hit me how I took GPS for granted and never once thought about being more aware of my surroundings to remember landmarks and roads better.

Undeniably, we are able to pack lighter these days as we commute or travel. Many personal items have been replaced by intangible bytes on the cloud. Books goes on mobile devices and Kindles, money take the form of NFC on the same mobile device or in the form of thin plastic chip cards. Keys are replaced by fobs or biometric identification. Many countries advocate a paperless lifestyle for its citizens. Yet this brought us a bigger sense of loss when we lose a personal item, because with each separation, we would have to rebuild the information that we once stored in the object. We now have to worry not only about the theft of physical items, but also identity or information theft as we share much of our private information on the public cloud. Indeed we are able to go into Starbucks these days to get a Frappe with the NFC on our phones, similarly we constantly bring cash with us in instances when our bank account gets hack or when we misplace our ATM card. We are able to carry less items we need daily but in turn compensate with items that we brings just in case.


  1. If public objects are able to realise the recognition of a user and his/her information in seconds, will be then be reverting to a situation where people rely on public phones just like in the past to achieve the aim of not carrying anything with them when they are out.
  2. To what extent would collecting and analysing of personal information by companies such as Amazon be deemed as legal? Hence, will the realisation of the services mentioned by Chipchase be at the expense of personal privacy rights?

Featured photo taken by Fong Hin Wai

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