Professor Genevieve Bell takes questions
Genevieve Bell has a message for technologists who espouse the self-serving view that the more cell phone, laptops and other gizmos we integrate into our life the happier we’ll be: people often get fed up.

That notion may be obvious to anyone who has experienced the simultaneous, and seemingly unending, flow of instant messages, emails and ringing phones, all proclaiming to be urgent. But you generally won’t hear it from the companies who are trying to force their hardware and software down our throats.

Until now.

Bell is a “resident anthropologist” at Intel, who has conducted years of research into everyday people’s attitudes about technology. Her finding is that people are frequently looking for a respite.

“Someone once said to me they thought of their cell phone and the bundle of technology in their backpack as being like a nest of chirping birds and all the little mouths of baby birds all demanding to be fed,” Bell said to a small gathering of reporters. “It had gotten to this point that what they really wanted to do was fling their backpack into the river.”

Bell reached the conclusion by observing people somewhat out of the mainstream. She’s spent a fair amount of time studying enthusiasts of recreational vehicles, backpackers and people who own second homes, usually used for several months out of the year as vacation spots. The idea: these seekers of alternative abodes can tell us a lot about the way we all would prefer to live.

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