Mobile Trumps Analogue? and Professional Gobbledegook on the Mobile PhoneBy
At any interface of old and new technologies and habits, there are anomalies and puzzling things. Those trapped in the old are doomed to trip in the new version. Much, even most, of the habits we formed in the analogue world do not transfer to the digital world. This has become clear to me as a result of two recent experiences involving the mobile phone.
The first involved, of all institutions, the American Automobile Association. This is an institution to which I am very loyal, its towing service being a godsend many times over our years of driving elderly cars prone to sudden refusals to operate, usually at a fair distance from home and hearth. In all the membership literature they have sent me recently, there have been banners of “helpful hints” informing me that in the event of an emergency on the road I could easily reach the AAA by dialing “1-800-AAA- HELP” on my mobile phone. The same information is on the membership wallet card.
Now, take out your mobile phone and tell me what numbers to dial….I’ll wait….You’ll note that dialing this “number” will now be a challenge. Your little number keys don’t have letters, do they? Maybe you’ve memorized the location of the letters. Perhaps the very popular i-Phone still has letters on the keys. In the case of an emergency, I hope for your sake that’s so. Obviously, this is a case of the marketing and/or design departments having folks who are on auto-pilot with respect to “old copy”, which they just carry over from version-to-version. But maybe some young person will take a fresh look, whip out their mobile, and discover that members may be out there unable to reach them.
The second instance involved something I would classify as “digital self-talk”, where an institution uses in public the language of the “interior”. This is the corporate or professional dialect or vocabulary. Every profession has a technical vocabulary which is meaningless to the rest of us.
My mobile phone provider has a useful facility which enables me to forward calls to another phone. Since my residence is out of mobile phone signal territory, this is a great convenience. However, when I forward my calls to my home office, I get the strangest confirmation message: Registration of Cal Forwarding. Unconditional returned success. And when I cancel the call forwarding, the message is not much more enlightening: Deactivation of Call Forwarding. Unconditional returned success. Why is something “unconditional”? This sounds somehow very permanent and irreversible. Why not just “Call Forwarding On” and “Call Forwarding Off”?
Getting used to the new technology and all its impacts in daily life is hard enough; please don’t force me to learn yet another language.