Sunday, October 18, 2009

31 hours without a cell phone

FOR 31 HOURS....

Carrying a cell phone has become almost as common as wearing clothing. Nearly everywhere I go I see someone busily texting, checking email, or talking on the phone, even if they are in a big group. Cell phones are in constant use. For many, their cell phone is their best friend. It’s their most immediate connection to the people they want to talk to at that second and they won’t go anywhere without it. Although phones are an important method of communication between people, many wonder if they cause people to be less connected to the community right in front of them.
Thinking about my relationship with my cell phone, I realize that imagining a day when I willingly didn’t use my phone is hard. My cell phone and I are pretty much inseparable. Having it with me creates some strange sense of security. For instance, I was sitting alone at the DMV where I didn’t know anyone. I was feeling sort of awkward because I didn’t have anything to do but sit and watch the other people in the DMV so I whipped out my cell phone, turned to my contact list and instantly started a conversation with a few friends. Suddenly the bustle of the DMV went away and I was completely absorbed in my own little cell phone world. I found security in the fact that I was no longer sitting awkwardly alone with nothing to do. However the question then became what might have happened if, instead of burring myself in my cell phone, I had struck up a conversation with some other person at the DMV with nothing to do? I will never know.
Examining this situation and ones like it, I decided to see what it would be like to live 31 entire hours without a cell phone. Here’s what I found:
Not having a cell phone was easier than I imagined. I think that might have something to do with the small size of the community I live in. Because everything on campus is so compact, most of the people I talk to throughout the day are easily found. Instead of texting someone to find out where they were, I just went looking instead. Things were also made easier by the fact that the group of people I talk to most often usually moves in a pack. I found that by staying with the group I was usually where I wanted to be with the people I wanted to be with. It was almost liberating. Because I knew I didn’t have my phone I wasn’t worried about answering the next text message, or missing a call, I was free to just communicate with the people who were near me. During class changes I didn’t hurry to check my phone, instead I leisurely walked to the next class and even had a conversation with a friend. At lunch and dinner I was completely involved in the meal time conversation rather than coming in and out after checking my phone or sending a text message. It was nice to not constantly have my phone in my hand because it freed me up to other conversation and observations that I might have missed had I been absorbed in my phone.
While communicating at school was a fairly easy task, unfortunately the people at home I would normally talk to were neglected for the 31 hours. This is where not having a cell phone became problematic. Calling someone who is not in your immediate community is the fastest way to reach them. Because I live away from home, I call my parents and many close friends almost every day. For things like this, cell phones are absolutely necessary. When I checked my phone after the 31 hours, my mother had called four times and texted 8 times. I also had 2 other calls from a friend, and 7 others texts, many of which were from people I go to school with.
My biggest challenge was not knowing the time. I was more nervous about being late to the next class because I did not have anything on me to check the time with. I ended up scoping out clocks and asking passer bys what time it was. In general I was much earlier to my classes because I was so nervous about receiving the incorrect time, or miscalculating the time it might take me to get from one place to the other.
After the 31 hours I came to the conclusion that in this day and age, living life without a cell phone is impractical. While it did not happen in the 31 hours that I was without a phone, I often receive updates from work that are necessary to doing my job properly. I also think it’s important to be able to communicate with people that don’t live close by. This being said, I also think it’s important to put the phone down and interact with the people who do live in our immediate community.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Daily Commute

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These rabbits know what's up. They are increasing social capital through carpooling.
No lonely commuters here!

I thought these cars would be pretty sweet rides...

Mission: Document a typical motorized day.

Being a commuter student requires me to drive back and forth, to and from school each day. Each morning I wake up, hop in my car, and head off towards Winston-Salem. I have the freedom to leave when I want, stop where I want, listen to the music I want, and avoid interactions with anyone outside of my little car. Though I enjoy the peace and quiet of my morning commute, you cannot help but notice all the other people surrounding you on the roads. Just like you, they too are in their own little bubble, free to go where they want and free to fulfill their own obligations.
On a typical day, I drive between forty and sixty minutes if just going to and from school. Sometimes, if I choose to return home during the day, I can end up spending two hours of my day in the car. While having a car at my disposal is convenient, driving pulls me away from other people. When I am in my car, I am not part of any other community. Individuals who spend a lot of time in their cars are dramatically decreasing social capital.

Mission: Survive a day without my car.
A day without a car can be a lonely day if you are stuck at home, but a car-less day can encourage social interaction. I can no longer leave my house whenever I want, and if I want to go any where I must depend on others. I no longer have the freedoms available to me that my own car provides. Getting to school involves either hitching a ride with a friend or asking my mom to take me. I am required to travel with others. The silent morning commute of a typical day is replaced with a morning filled with conversation. If I am not driving, I no longer have control over the radio, and I do not decide whether or not we stop at Dunkin' Donuts. A day without a car requires sacrifices, but it increases social capital. If I am riding with other people, I am no longer in my own little bubble. I am sharing my bubble with at least one other person. I can no longer control exactly where I am going or when I get there, but I have the opportunity to talk to someone else. Carpools and public transportation encourage social interaction. These interactions create a stronger community. Though having my own car is quite convenient and caters to my individual needs, it does nothing for my community. The more lonely commuters, the more pollution and the less social interaction.
-Caitlin Riddle

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


To investigate how trusting/reliable people were, I went to two stores that categorize different socioeconomic statuses- Goodwill (in Waughtown) and Harris Teeter (in Thruway). In both stores, I dropped my bag several times to see if people would return it and if location and demographic had anything to do with trust. I wanted to know if those who shopped in Thruway were more likely to return a bag because they had more wealth than those who shopped at Goodwill. I thought that individual need may affect a person's actions.
At Harris Teeter, every time I dropped my bag, a person who saw picked it up and brought it back to me. People were very willing to help each other out. At Goodwill, I don't know if it was that no one saw, but people ignored my bag. I didn't believe they would steal it, however they didn't pick it up and give it back to me either. I don't think this accurately concludes that those with more financial need are less trustworthy, some of the differences could be do to store layouts (things laying in aisles in the supermarket are much more obvious) or possibly how focused people were on me when I dropped my bag.
While I should not be proud of this, I thought one of the most interesting portions of my experiment was my own lack of trust. While my wallet in my bag was totally empty (I am after all a broke artist/student), I still was extremely uneasy about leaving my purse. So much so, in fact, that I made my friend come to both stores with me to watch from afar as I dropped my bag and make sure that no one would steal it. I know that this was showing my own tendencies to "bowl alone" however I would not have completed this experiment without my friend watching.

-Shelly Zeiser

Write it.

"Education is the most powerful weapon which you
can use to change the world."
-Nelson Mandela

(Do you know what is going on?
...Do you have an opinion?)

I decided to write a message on the brick wall next to Gray Building, encouraging people to think, make, and share an opinion of their own.

In a matter of minutes, people responded!

Thank you, Mary Margaret, for the photos!

-Carlie Herron