Kleshas and Tanhas

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Posts Tagged ‘iPhone

There is something ethically vitalizing while riding trains

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You can’t help but see the underbelly of society; the infrastructure that one can sense, but no one wants to admit exists. Riding the SEPTA in Philadelphia over the Schuylkill River displays you the declining socio-economic classes that are compiled into what is called a city. Starting with middle class homes and their neighboring duplexes, the train passed more barbed wire fences and broken concrete as you enter Center City Philadelphia. Wrecked buildings are still inhabited since the city’s orange conviction notices did not label any doors. Garbage is that factor to gauge the destitution that communities face. You realize that garbage is an expense; you pay for garbage pickups and disposals-something that a college student wouldn’t realize offhand. While people cannot afford a new window to replace shattered glass or fix their deteriorating homes, how will they be able to properly dispose of their trash?

And then suddenly, as if the poverty witnessed was all a dream, the train magically arrives at a transportation hub. Filled with prominent business people that sit across from the untouchables, you begin to smell the pretzel shop at 30th Street Station. The sky is grey, allowing no sunshine to breach the windows as you walk widely around those that invade your path. Your smartphone of choice is your compass that your nose is pressed to in the hope that you don’t trip, fall, and land face first into the lap of one of the beggars.

God forbid you spill that Starbucks you sip as you walk down to the platform. Waiting impatiently, you pull your collar up closer while experiencing the smallest of glimpses of what the homeless must feel. You’re still inside; you’re only catching a slight breeze from the opening on the other side of the platform. And so you continue to sip that coffee as if it’s some barrier keeping you from being no different than the beggar that you avoided up stairs; he’s now sitting directly above you, still looking on with his bleak eyes. Your smartphone happens to be out again, acting as your status shield. It says, “Don’t worry everyone; I am financially sound and stable! I can’t afford to be here now though, I have to check Facebook statuses from the past and Like events in the future.” Is the present too expensive for the well-off? The poor man upstairs was rich enough…“But more importantly, I have that piece of plastic to suggest otherwise, don’t I?”

As you become situated in your own row that is designed for two but Mr. Suitcase fills that extra seat, you look up from your phone. Staring after college girl and her body before she turns; you think no one sees you as you try to mask your act as some sort of thinking posture; “Did I crunch those numbers correctly?”

Your dream turns into a nightmare as your Amtrak starts pulling out of the station. You leave the city’s prominent skyline-buildings and stumble into a rapid decline into the impoverished areas again. This time it’s worse. You see the outskirts of another city: Baltimore. Where did those hours go; the time in between Philly to here? It couldn’t have been the suckers only free Wi-Fi, could it?


The portion of Baltimore’s underbelly you’re witnessing is worse than Philadelphia’s. This time, you see white conviction notices that bar individuals from inhabiting eroding structures that you dare to call a home. More grey. More trash. Less people. As you’re about to look back down to some distraction in your lap, a magazine or a laptop-“What’s the difference these days when you can get your news online?”-something catches your eye. The train is slowing for the next station; why is there such an obnoxiously colored turf in one of the traffic medians? Its highlighter quality is in glaring contrast to its surrounding counterparts; broken benches, broken homes, a broken community.

That baby won’t stop crying any time soon will it? Luckily, I have those Bose headphones. One of the best purchases of my life! Or was it a gift from Tina? It doesn’t matter, I’m almost home. I can just see myself waking up from this mess.


Written by Jack Viere

December 16, 2011 at 6:46 pm

A Crippling Digital Divide: Social Injustice Caused by Advertisements Part 2

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Today, America’s attitude towards consumption exacerbates the digital divide between higher income individuals and lower socio-economic groups. In Time’s Luxury Survey, research shows a surge in consumerism with those born between 1980 and 2000. “Because [18-27 year olds have] grown up in the age of dotcom billionaires, wealth and success are a given” (Time, 2008). At the turn of the century came the invention of the smartphone. In 1992, IBM’s Simon was a concept smartphone that initiated the trend of handheld devices (Schneidawind, 1992). While this technology evolved into the sleek, status-fulfilling must-have-item, a sense of inherent exigency began to dominate young adults. The category “looking stylish is important to feeling good about myself” had a 93% approval vote from young adults (Time, 2008). The smartphone’s timely introduction during the turn of the century has taken advantage of America’s new fashion; consumption.

What further deepens the digital divide is advertisers’ selection of who is depicted using what product. In another commercial, Boost Mobile promotes its Anthem 2.0 phone. Among others, rapper Young Jeezy advertises the new product by using lines of his material to promote the practicality of Boost Mobile’s deal offered sublimely through the thirty second clip (Boost Mobile, 2007). In this instance, Boost Mobile promotes their Anthem 2.0 to a young, pop-culture-fixed consumer population. With several rappers promoting their product, Boost Mobile attracts the attention of not only the youth, but a black population as well. In contrast with this specific commercial, Apple products are geared towards a white population. In a commercial promoting a Macintosh computer, actor Justin Long utilizes wit and charm to depict the sharp edge of Apple products (Apple, 2007). There is a drastic difference between these two commercials; it is easy to see who is to be using what brands of technology.

It is no coincidence, then, that the racial divide in America factors into the digital divide. Preying upon crude stereotypes, commercials depict more than who should be using what form of technology; they depict a financial gap between the races that is prevalent in today’s society. “The poverty rate for non-Hispanic Whites was lower than the poverty rates for other racial groups…For Blacks, the poverty rate increased to 27.4 percent in 2010, up from 25.8 percent in 2009” (Census Bureau, 2010). This conveys that the white population is more financially sound to purchase expensive technologies such as the Macintosh computer in the Apple commercial. “Broken down by race and ethnicity, African American residents of rural areas and central cities had the lowest level of access to computers (6.4 and 10.4 percent), followed by central city Latinos (10.5 percent)” (Modarres, 2011). Computers allow for more than social networking, emails, and entertainment; the limitations of a smartphone. Computers enable a white population to a more expansive spread of technology, information, and internet use.

From this difference between the levels of access to the internet derives a social injustice. While there exists a digital divide between upper and lower socio-economic classes, there is a misconception that smartphones are closing the gap by allowing access to the internet.

“While there is a distinction between using a phone for communication and using it to access digital information, it should be equally obvious that having a smart phone is not the same as having a networked computer (laptop or desktop) that allows the user to create and manage a business or a community Web site” (ibid).

Non-white, typically poorer consumers are able to purchase cheap deals from companies like Boost Mobile and the issue of the digital divide appears to be solved. However, smartphones only allow for a limited access to the internet. Social networking does not equate to a full, complete use of the internet, and assuming that smartphones are bridging the digital divide is ethically harmful.

The social injustice, then, is the limited internet access poorer individuals have and the misperceptions of affluent individuals who believe that smartphones are a legitimate portal for a full access to the internet. This inhibits the poor from gaining better access to knowledge as well as cripples young peoples’ education.

“The most devastating consequences of the digital divide are the long-term effects it will have on today’s youth. Lacking access to technology and computer skills, an entire generation will be disempowered from realizing its full potential to contribute to society” (Koss, 2001).

Furthermore, the statistics from the US Census Bureau support Time’s concept of young adults’ intrinsic need for material goods. While more expensive computers would be more beneficial in an educational setting for today’s youth, cheaper, more attainable, and incomplete smartphones are fashionable and more captivating for young people to purchase. The media drives this social injustice by depicting who is to buy what products by feeding off of racial stereotypes. As a result, innovations, such as smartphones, are frequently built on top of misconceptions. Change, in this instance, is restrained by empowered advertisers. As Heraclitus once said, “Nothing endures but change.” The hold that advertisers have on their consumers disproves Heraclitus; people will buy what is trendy and ignore the social injustice that they create for themselves.


Apple. (2007, January 9). Get a mac-surgery [Video file]. Video posted to


Alverman, D. E. (2004). Media, Information Communication Technologies, and Youth Literacies: A

Cultural Studies Perspective. American Behavioral Scientist, 48(1), 78-83. doi:10.1177/0002764204267271

Boost Mobile. (2011, April 6). Working man [Video file]. Video posted to


Boost Mobile. (2007, December 23). Anthem 2.0 rap commercial [Video file]. Video posted to


Coupland, D. (1991). Generation x, tales for an accelerated culture. St. Martin’s Griffin.

Koss, F.A. (2001). Children Falling into the Digital Divide. Journal Of International Affairs, 55(1), 75.

LaGesse, D. (2001). So many gadgets and so little time. U.S. News & World Report, 130(2), 36.

Modarres, A. (2011). Beyond the digital divide. National Civic Review, 100(3), 4-7. doi10.1002/ncr.20069

Pain. S. (2006). The phone that roared. New Scientist. 190(2550).

Schneidawind, J. (1992). Big blue unveliling. USA Today.

The Luxury Survey. (Cover story). (2008). Time, 17158-59

U.S. Census Bureau. (2009, October). Current population survey, reported internet usage for

households, by selected householder. Retrieved December 3, 2011, from http://www.census.gov/hhes/computer/publications/2009.html

U.S. Census Bureau. (2010, September). Income, poverty, and health insurance coverage in the united

states: 2010. Retrieved December 3, 2011, from http://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/p60-239.pdf

35% of American Adults Own a Smartphone. (2011, July 11). PewResearchCenter Publications. Retrieved

December 3, 2011, from http://pewresearch.org/pubs/2054/smartphone-ownership-demographics-iphone-blackberry-android

Written by Jack Viere

December 5, 2011 at 11:30 am

Map vs. GPS

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Today, there’s a readiness and willingness to accept information from machines at face value with no discernment. Technology is just a machine, a computer at best. There’s no human judgement values, personal experiences, or wisdom in technology. Specifically, GPS’s are not really giving you an actual destination. It’s a computer that is taking you from point A to point B in the GPS’s system. A simple equation. (We use to be able to solve it with a thing called a map.) The problem arises from our believing that the GPS is really depicting an actual, tangible place. It has the undetectable illusion that is presenting the driver with a real place by showing qualities of the destination. Just because a computer can intake data and spit it back out to the user does not mean it discerns like a human mind.

Google has the ability to run specific search engines that evolve regularly due to its tracking bugs that automatically find new data to intake.  A person had to preprogram the logarithm for that bug to have the illusion of working self-sufficiently. Technology is the extension of human discernment that is propelled by our seeming growing need for convenience. Technology is NOT its own entity that should outweigh or completely for stomp out the individual’s ability to make decisions, especially those affecting him or herself.

I felt motivated to write out the above reflection as a reply to a classmate’s self-righteous exclamation: “Do you even know how to use a map?” Directed at my professor, I couldn’t help but smirk at his idea that maps are already outdated. Maybe they are, but I thought it was quite the assumption to make. Anyways, to me, it sounded like someone saying, “Don’t you know that 2+2=4?” to a college professor. Of course it was said with the tone inclining some sort of rhetorical question. Our professor said he preferred maps over GPS’s; I concurred at which the classmate proceeded to say that maps are susceptible to being outdated. I don’t think you need Garmin and MapQuest to tell you that, buddy. I think the cartographers  back in the day were well aware of the fact their product was susceptible to change when new information and details were procured from further research. On reflection, this gradual process of receiving and editing new data seems more plausible (in my opinion) than the GPS saying, “Turn left now,” leading you into a ravine, which (I’d argue) most people would do as they have their heads down, texting away on their iPhone 4s’s. When the smoke clears, and we crawl out of the ditch, we would then proceed to say, “Stupid GPS! It did not update itself!”

So basically that argument is whether you trust a map that will become outdated or you trust a voice on a GPS. That’s really not my point because it boils down to preference. (I don’t think a map has ever misled its user into a ditch though…even if the roads are rerouted, we don’t follow the road as intently as a GPS, hunched over, waiting for Mr. Australian Accent to lead us to the next point within the list of directions.)

My point is to question why or how do we find ourselves so ready to accept information from technology. Why do we have a desire to let things take control (like machines) as we sit back and take the passenger seat? Is it really out of convenience? If it is, how are we any better than animals if our rationale is only to make our life more convenience? (Medicine, machines, weapons, computers-making everything a little easier for us, allowing everyone to take the passenger seat and let technology take us for a spin.)

I think Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity all point to being in control of one’s own actions and one’s own mind.

Buddhism: the Eightfold Path has a few points worth mentioning. Falling under a broader category of Mental Development, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration all speak of  self-control. There’s really no presence of those three in our lifestyle when we take the backseat with technology.

Hinduism: the Eight Limbs of Patanjali’s Yoga; I’ve been reading a lot into this in one of my courses. Pratyahara, control of the senses. Dharana, concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness. We might be shutting down our senses (and survival skills at that) when we choose to allow technology dominate our decision-making. We really have no shot of cultivating any type of awareness, more or less the inner perceptual kind that many faiths shoot for.

Christianity: this could prove to be a little more difficult since there aren’t many lists in mainstream Christianity. I’d point out that in the Catholic context (which has many a good list) the Seven Deadly Sins has a little something-something called sloth and gluttony. While that may be a bit extreme in the instance of the GPS, taking the back seat in faith (which is a part of every day life, even when we choose to make it not,) is still letting other people”’ and other things do our work.

On a final note, in summarizing, I don’t think technology is wrong at all; that’d be to argue that all the scientific advances (like medicine-that does fall under that category) were for the worse. Absurd. But in the field of something like medicine, it’s not the meds that are making advances on its own. Its the researches, scientists, and physicians that propel medicinal advances.

So why, then, do we take the back seat?

Written by Jack Viere

November 16, 2011 at 4:47 pm