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Posts Tagged ‘handsfree’

She is standing in line in front of us at the supermarket, a woman in her 30ies, talking in her mobile phone. Now she smiles at us, apologising, and runs away to get something she has forgotten to put in her trolley. Just when the cashier is done with the customer before her, she returns with a package of cream. While putting her goods on the belt she continues talking in the mike of her handsfree. “Have a look in the wardrobe”, she says to whoever is on the phone. “At the very back!” Now it is time to pay. She ends the call, pays and packs her stuff.

What is going on here, on New Year’s Eve at the supermarket? The woman is doing her shopping, but she seems to be in another place. By what we hear, we get the impression that she is directing someone who is looking for something. Maybe it is a person in her flat, perhaps her husband. What it is that may be found at the very back of the closet we are not told. But the woman has bought ingredients for a dessert, so probably there is a party coming up. And on such occasions, one sometimes has need of things that, most of the time, are stowed away. Perhaps on the top shelf or at the very back of the wardrobe.

In another sense, it is a question of presence and absence. While she, quite mechanically, puts her things to the cashier, she is focused upon the search at home for whatever it might be. We can imagine her mind browsing through mental images of probable locations where it may be stored. But this commitment does not prevent her from – albeit mechanically – being active in the place where she is present in the flesh. And she is definitely here, her bodily presence is undeniable, but still she seems to be far away. No one would dream of trying to make conversation with her – well, perhaps someone who misinterpreted what she says to be directed to him or her.  However, the woman’s absence is not completely opaque for us. We cannot help having ideas, based upon very few facts, of what is going on in her home, if that is where she calls.

What is interesting with this incident? The very possibility of virtual participation in remote places and in real time appeared with the telephone networks more than a hundred years ago. But when the telephone systems become wireless, this possibility is no longer limited to the specific locations of fixed telephones. The place for mediated interaction is to be found more or less anywhere.

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