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The phone, video phones, multi-tasking and “the future”

Ever since I started ‘chatting’ on the internet back in 1995 or 96 I’ve been a multi-tasker.  My mom and I chatted, my friends at college and I chatted, I even IMed with my roommates when we were in the same room.  The reason this works so well is that it allows us to have a conversation (or feel like we’re having a conversation) without giving it our undivided attention.  It allows us to continue to do whatever we’re doing.  The in the same room thing might seem weird, but you need to keep in mind that someone who reads lips can’t easily hear a random comment from someone sitting ont he other side of the room.  We have to stop what we’re doing and make eye contact, or at least eye-to-lips/face contact in order to understand.

I thought this article in Time summed up how I’ve always felt about the phone versus email or chatting.  It focuses on video phones or the video features of Skype and why few (hearing) people actually use them.  It comes back to multi-tasking.  With the phone they can pretend to listen while pacing or cleaning or zoning out. With a video phone the person on the other end would be aware of that and feel like you weren’t listening.  It’s a good article:,9171,1952314,00.html

This reminds me of a very different aspect of the Deaf Culture.  With sign language, you can’t really lie, you always make eye contact. If you’re zoning out it’s pretty obvious, and I’m not sure how much multi-tasking can be done, but that’s the culture. Video phones are obviously a god send for those who want to chat using ASL. And for those fluent in ASL the video relay services are much preferred to slow text relay.

From a business world perspective, I’m happy that the use of the phone seems to be dwindling as older people retire and younger people join the work force.  Email and chat are becoming standards and that’s the best leveling device for deaf people imaginable.

Getting back to the article, video phones were the future and they’re here but people don’t really like them… what’s the next great thing we can only dream about?



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