Reflection | Jan Chipchase : You are what you carry

In this chapter, Jan had introduced very interesting concepts of range of distribution, centre of gravity and point of reflection to explain our carrying behaviour, which is about knowing where things are, being able to access them at the right time and feeling secure about their safe keepingg. Range of distribution is the distant people feel comfortable to let loose of their items, centre of gravity is the points where portable objects tend to be placed and point of reflection is the moment of reflection and evaluating what people carry.

I find these concepts thought provoking and it allows me to understand other behaviour that could be similar to carrying things. For example, forgetting to pick up buy something at the supermarket is very similar to forgetting to carry something for the day. Are we lacking points of reflection to remind ourselves that the milk at home has run out? If so, is it better to make packaging transparent to tell us when milk is low?

In the reading, the author discusses how advanced technology will change our carrying behaviour and how these 3 concepts will be used in an intangible form of network or data. Personally, I feel that technology has expanded the survival value of a phone by broadening the concept of connectivity. Carrying a phone nowadays does not simply allow contacting others in need, but it also allows access to other virtual possessions we have, be it content we created for a meeting, our online presence in social media or thousands of photos that captured our memories. The gen Y people like myself might consider connectivity as our basic need – something we cannot leave home without. The phone now is a device that affords this much more sophisticated connectivity. Phone makers have been constantly competing in this aspect, making their phones more capable by expanding its connectivity.


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In the Amazon predictive product example, technology will eliminate the need for a point of reflection for consumers. Ordinary consumers no longer need to check and decide when to buy their supplies. Algorithm will act as their proxy, going through almost the same process of checking supply status and make a purchase decision, with considerations for personal preference (machine learning). At this point, I realise that point of reflection is highly important to our decision-making process and it is also what makes us distinctive as human. If computers are going to remove this from us, how much more or less can we be homo sapien? Also, corporates could be using this power to shape us into consumption machines, buying things that are deliberately marketed using predictive technology. In this way, the value of physical things might be changed significantly because we put less efforts into buying them and subsequently, our idea of ownership may change as well

Another point that strikes me is the power of network that allows doing more and owning fewer things. Many start-ups like Uber, Airbnb, DHL Myway…etc are winning billions of dollars by creating shareconomies that allow people to access products and services without owning them. Essentially these shareconomies make us more independent as individuals as we have every tool we need at hand. However, we must acknowledge that these shareconomies are largely motivated by personal gains and economic interest. How can we use the power of network to create greater public good?

Lastly, I strongly agree that the Great Unburdening is on the physical aspect and people like myself are having more of psychological burden with technology. Reducing physical things to bits and bytes make them homogenous and only recognisable to a user by names. I have great difficulty search of things because I cannot always remember what I named my file. The range of distribution seems to be further and I only need to a have a string to bring things back. The search function is like a bundle of strings for me to choose from. However, how do I make sure I have the right string?

Author: Ava P.

learner and a meaning seeker in all things

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