The smart phones have changed the way we inhabit public space and, more specifically, how we fill our time while we wait.
That means that we no longer get bored, almost never. But also that we stop looking at what happens around us, that we examine what surrounds us, that we reflect, that we assimilate the places we travel to .
It was smartphone
Every moment of potential boredom can now be improved or avoided by all kinds of tasks, entertainment modes or other distractions provided by a mini computer that we always carry in our pocket.
The writer and anthropologist Marc Auge has coined the term “no places” to refer to spaces formed in relation to certain purposes (transport, transit, commerce, leisure). We sit regularly in these transient public spaces bent over our smartphones, while traveling to both material and digital destinations “without experiencing them as places”.
But looking around is important, even the “no places”. The urge to recognize patterns , consciously or unconsciously, is connected to the human brain and was a critical survival skill when hominids got up and started walking.
Recent psychological studies have expanded our understanding of the creative benefits of being bored . “Boredom becomes a state that seeks,” suggests psychologist Heather Lench , because the boring mind is more likely to seek activities that involve the reward center of the brain.
We constantly use electronic devices to distract us from the tedium associated with waiting. Instead, we might see boredom as an invitation to look up and then look around, observe people, daydream or take time to observe and develop our own pattern recognition beyond hyperlinks and labels.
We can then discover a space where a new poetics resides. Contemplate, observe, get bored even, so that our brain finds patterns and understands the world in a different way. That should be the philosophy when traveling. Leave the smartphone a little behind.