Translation and Interpreting in 150+ Languages
Siri and the Cell Phone Fetish
December 3, 2011 - By: - In: Machine Translation - Comments Off on Siri and the Cell Phone Fetish

We hold our hand-held devices close to our heart. Everywhere you go, half the people you see do not see you, completely enthralled as they are by their smartphones, with eyes for nothing but their object of desire, their soul mate, whispering in the ear piece, caressing the touch screen, digital lovers transported to their own private pixilated Idaho as they stroll sightlessly among the traffic. And I’m not talking about that significant other at the other end of the line, but the object of desire they hold in their hand. We are the love slaves of those little soul mates we clutch so tightly against our ears.

What  reader among us hasn’t shared the embarrassment of catching a dinner companion furtively fingering  their digital assistant under the tablecloth? It’s quite shocking what goes on between people and their phones in public. And in private? Well,  just look at where former Congressman Weiner and his little hand-held friend. His fetish was the instrument of his fall. Not the dirty pics to strangers part, which was incidental to his experience of all those special moments between him and his phone. So think ol’ timey fetish, an object for ritual, possessed by the soul of a deity or the soul of the bearer. Weiner possesses and is possessed by his phone, excited by the reflection of his briefs on the small screen, in a safe zone (so he thought) where his excitement was the only consequence, at least until his STD-free fantasies finally spilled over into his real world. Until then, it was just the two of them, or the one of them, depending on the degree of agency we assign to his fetish, all gone to pot when distant ladies grew tired of images of his plucked (?) pecs.

Before the advent of the smartphone, fetish objects were commonly made of stone. Like cell phones, Zuni fetishes were nodes of great spiritual power. (This turquois bear by Emery Eriacho from Turquois Village.)

While I find it creepy and rude when others have eyes (or worse) only for their cell, the relationship between me is not at all like that, even though we feel very close.  I can’t begin to describe the feeling of panic when she is out of my reach and beyond ringing distance.. But I do have to admit that my thing with my phone is just not the same,  ever since I made eye contact with that cute 4S in the Apple Store the other day.

But old man ATT is against it, and according to the fine print in my contract, getting a 4S now requires I saw off my right arm after spending 127 hours stuck under a boulder in a Utah slot canyon. So that’s out, since I can’t get the time off.

Siri is something special, that new app that talks back. I’ve got a professional interest, of course, since I have the feeling that apps of that ilk are going to have a big-time impact on the real-time translation user experience. But my fascination with Siri is not strictly business.

Really the dramatic impact PDAs are making on the translation business is just a sideshow to the three-ring under the Big Top at the Social Transformation Circus. We’ve got the human act in one ring, the parade of machines in the other, and in the third, the cyborg ringmasters who have everyone else jumping through hoops. Confused? Consider it a cliffhanger, all to be told in my next post, although I’ll give you a hint: The world is going to hell in a hand basket. So what else is new?

Stay tuned to your smartphone for the next Translation Guy notification to find out.

Which actually is a good idea. You can subscribe to this blog here (look to your right), and not miss even one edition of this virtual translation roller coaster ride! Do it now before you forget.

Now, where was I?  Right. More next week. In the meantime, since our mission is to entertain and inform, a quick video review of PDA terminology.


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