Dead Zones

A while ago a friend posted about nomophobia, the fear of being without one’s phone. I am in kind of a middle ground on this one; I am fully capable of leaving my phone in the other room and forgetting about it for hours. I also occasionally take it ABSOLUTELY EVERYWHERE and check it neurotically, mostly if i’m expecting a certain call or if I’m checking times.

In a previous post I mentioned the table top RPG Shadowrun. The two are related, I promise (actually, I’m pretty sure I could connect Shadowrun to just about anything, but nevertheless…). Shadowrun has a special class of characters called “technomancers,” the wizards and warriors of the cyberworld who walk our everyday internet the way Neo walks the Matrix (btw, in SR the internet is called “the matrix.”). These are my favorite characters to play!

One drawback to playing a technomancer is that whenever they enter a dead zone, a place where there is no wireless signal, and they are cut off from the matrix they frequently experience some level (determined during character creation) of withdrawal symptoms. In extreme cases they may curl up into fetal positions and whimper until someone takes them back to civilization. Basically, they shut down and become complete totally useless.

While I cannot access the internet with my mind (oh how I wish!) I realize that there are times when I experience this phenomenon. For example tonight, as I type this, I am on the ferry without internet (obviously, dear reader, I wrote this a few days ago) because for some reason Boingo was down. I don’t like to think that being disconnected truly makes me dysfunctional as a person, however, I now realized that it does make me almost totally unproductive since 98%+ of the things I have to do require being connected. It honestly took me about five minutes to remember that I can type without having internet!

This got me thinking about how we as individuals, as mobile leaders, and as a society should be thinking about crossing that boundary. How do we conceptualize, plan for, and cope with dead zones? While we make apps all the time that improve our efficiency, synch our entire lives across multiple devices, what happens when those devices no longer talk to each other or to the cloud? Can we design mobile products so that they still have value even when they don’t have signal? For instance, I am using Evernote to write this post on my xoom; once I have signal Evernote will synch this note and I can copy it to WordPress. But Evernote allows me to be productive even when I am unable to use the synching feature at the moment.

What apps or mobile features do you readers use offline? Which totally fall apart without signal?