From Us, To Steve: The techno present
By Tamara Christensen at 6:05 am, Monday December 05 2011
Part 19 of 19 in the series the Omni project

For the Omni project we are exploring the impact of technology on people’s everyday lives. This has involved a lot of “looking out” into the world. Of course we are also “looking in” and paying attention to how technology is impacting our own lives, i.e. when it comes to tolerating traffic and making consensual decisions about birthday gifts.

Julie and I had the best of intentions: Head up to the Ferry Plaza building after a meeting in the city to pick up a gift for Steve for his birthday. We knew (more or less) that we wanted to get he and Anne some sort of serving dish from Heath Ceramics to complement the new tableware they purchased last month. Unfortunately traffic was not in our favor that day. As Julie practiced her patience at the wheel we noticed in the sunroof that a helicopter circled above- definitely not a good sign.

By the time we got to the Ferry building, Julie’s patience had run out.

JN: I do not want to deal with parking. Why don’t I just drop you off here and you can run in?

TC: Okay. Wait a minute. I thought we were gonna pick something out together?

JN: It’s fine. We talked about it. I’m sure you can pick something out.

TC: I want us to choose together! Okay, I will text you! Stay tuned!

I got to the shop and met Monica and Michael (whom I had already spoken with on the phone about our mission). They were ready to help and set to showing me exactly what Steve and Anne had purchased. I found myself in a race against time and battery when I saw the dreaded red percentage in the upper right corner of my iPhone. As a gift-giver I was focused on figuring out the present, but I also felt a bit frantic about making sure I had power enough left to find Julie once the shopping was done. The tingling butterflies in my stomach sang a tune of “you are new to this city, never been to this ‘hood before… if you get to 10% better run for the door…”

Julie assuages my fears of never finding her should my battery die before I get back outside to her car.

Monica showed me a bunch of serving platter options that would complement Steve and Anne’s new set. I texted these images to Julie with my suggestion. She agreed and we arrived quickly at a decision. The whole process, including gift wrapping, took less than 15 minutes. I walked out the door directly over to Julie’s car with a perfect present, selected in consensus, and a teeny tiny bit of battery to spare.

The techno-interventions into our gifting ritual did not end there. We planned to meet at Ho Wing’s General Store in the Mission for dinner on Sunday night (which, sadly, is so new it has no website or relevant hyperlinks as of yet). En route to the restaurant¬† the texts started flying among the three of us. *Nota bene: I typically comply with California hands free laws and do not text while driving. I have, however, trained my 8 year-old to masterfully multi-task between giving me directions via Google Maps and reading/replying to text messages.

iMéssage ?† trois illustrating communication of¬† our location, our confusion, our emotions and our search for why.

During our hunt for a birthday gift for Steve, I was reminded of the simple daily interventions of technology. I take for granted that the ways that technology enables me (and my 8¬† year-old) to find and communicate with friends, learn more about friends, stay connected, pass time, navigate, keep anxiety at bay (or not), and share decision making in a way that ensures we both have the same ‘data’. It’s hard to imagine that less than 10 years ago none of this experience would have been possible or, for what it’s worth, noteworthy.

Happy ending! Steve and Anne with their new tray (images courtesy of Steve and Anne…and technology)

 

 

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3 Responses to “From Us, To Steve: The techno present”

    Awesome story! I especially love the tune your stomach sang… I think tOp needs a theme song :)

    Comment by Kristine 12.05.11 @ 10:51 am


    I’ve never seen two people happier with a platter. Thanks, technology!

    Comment by Julie Norvaisas 12.05.11 @ 3:16 pm


    The scary part of this story is that you walked into a store and gave them my name, and they showed you what I bought!!! Yes, that’s in their computer, and they can retrieve it, but should they? Although this example was entirely benevolent, the potential to misuse this kindliness – the social engineering is definitely a concern. I keep thinking of Briscoe and Green pressing a receptionist for some info, offering to instead come back with a warrant!

    Comment by Steve Portigal 12.07.11 @ 4:23 pm