kottke.org posts about proust

Remembrance of Phones PastDec 05 2007

I once went through a painful, protracted breakup, conducted almost entirely over this LG phone. It wasn't a bad phone, but to this day, even a picture of it is like a punch to the gut - its Major-thirds ringtone, the wallpaper mocking my heartache with its cheery blue sky. I feel a little nauseous even describing it (my description may just be nauseating, in fairness).

In 2001, I spoke to my father on this Kyocera smartphone from 8th Avenue, having run up the block from work just in time to see the first tower fall. I don't have to go into all the emotional baggage which that implies.

Now, in my current phase, I probably don't have enough perspective to characterize what of me is reflected in my current phone, but I think that in a while, I'll have an idea.

Since the time began that we were never to be found without our mobile phones (or whichever portable devices, for that matter), I feel that somehow all of the memories of the current chapter of my life are being constantly averaged out and inextricably linked to the phone that I'm using.

Do you have any similar experiences to share? Do you think that linking my identity to my gadgets entails a sort of anthropomorphism? What do you think Proust would have to say about all this? (I've never read Proust, so I'm honestly asking.) Other insightful references to prior discussions or great thinkers would be helpful as well.

Update: Michael Leddy at orange crate art has been mining his Proust and has turned up an incredibly relevant passage to the discussion:

...a thing which we have looked at long ago, if we see it again, brings back to us, along with our original gaze, all the images which that gaze contained. This is because things -- a book in its red binding, like the rest -- at the moment we notice them, turn within us into something immaterial, akin to all the preoccupations or sensations we have at that particular time, and mingle indissolubly with them.

-Marcel Proust, Finding Time Again

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