On Open Culture, Ayun Halliday writes about smartphones and creativity, extensively quoting cartoonist and educator Lynda Barry.
Here’s one of Barry’s thoughts that especially struck me:
“The phone gives us a lot but it takes away three key elements of discovery: loneliness, uncertainty and boredom. Those have always been where creative ideas come from.”
– Lynda Barry
I’m still mulling over the quote, but I seem to be leaning towards disagreeing. People who are inclined to doodle, people-watch, nap, let their thoughts wander, knit, read or whatnot will continue to do so even with smartphones. Not to mention that it’s perfectly possible to be bored with your smartphone and all the access it gives. Boredom, I find, isn’t dependent on having access to x, y or z; it’s more a matter of what doesn’t inspire you at any given moment. Nor are smartphones a cure-all against loneliness or uncertainty.
Smartphones are undoubtedly a tool, and equally unboubtedly they can be a distraction. My tentative hypothesis is that as the newest and perhaps most exciting devices in the history of human tool use, we haven’t collectively learned to balance their benefits and disadvantages yet.
Of course, that doesn’t make it any easier for those struggling to resist the siren song of instant and interminable access.