High-Tech Clothing Forces You to Stay Off Your Cellphone

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
May 14 2014 4:42 PM

High-Tech Clothing Forces You to Stay Off Your Cellphone

165144584-this-picture-taken-on-march-19-2013-shows-friends
Did you say something?

Photo by NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images

If clothes make the man, can they also make him a better person who doesn’t incessantly check Instagram over lunch?

These days, 90 percent of Americans own cellphones and, according to the Pew Internet Project, “67% of cell owners find themselves checking their phone for messages, alerts, or calls—even when they don’t notice their phone ringing or vibrating.”  

Advertisement

If you don’t have the self-control to release the phone from your clammy, rictus grip, perhaps consider a new clothing line that might help you become a more focused brunch partner. Focus: Life Gear, a project by Japanese designer Kunihiko Morinaga and commissioned (oddly enough) by Trident gum, is a fashion collection that uses radio-frequency-shielding fabric to cut off almost all electromagnetic waves to a cellphone when it’s placed in the garment’s pocket. It’s not clear if we’ll ever be able to buy the clothes, but they were on display in Toronto.

According to Morinaga, “while the introduction of the internet and smartphones has made things very convenient, we are spending a lot more time in this ‘virtual world’ even when we are with real people.” He explained that he made a point of using fabric that would typically shield wearers from the elements, but applied it in this line to block out “the storm of information” begging for our attention—“the idea is protection from the virtual world,” he said.

With the rise in cell-, and now smartphone use, there’s a growing anxiety about whether their ubiquity is undermining our ability to pay sustained attention to one another. Not to mention the most basic irritation of people chatting incessantly on their phones in public places. So, if we don’t want to just turn them off, as Fast Company points out, can we use technology to enforce our community’s dearest moral principles?

While preventing your own smartphone from receiving calls and texts is one thing, signal jammers that affect all phones in their vicinity remain illegal to use in the United States. Enter cellphone-jamming vigilantes who claim that they’re enforcing the hallowed no-phone-conversations on public transport rule. Take Eric, the Philadelphia SEPTA bus signal jammer of 2012. As he told NBC10, “I guess I’m taking the law into my own hands, and quite frankly, I’m proud of it. … A lot of people are extremely loud, no sense of just privacy or anything. When it becomes a bother, that’s when I screw on the antenna and flip the switch.” Another man was arrested in Florida in 2013 for using a jammer on his daily Interstate 4 commute for almost two years. He told investigators he simply wanted to stop people from using cellphones while driving, but as it happens, he was also knocking out transmission towers and police radios.

Other countries take a different approach: France and Japan enforce a code of silence for culture-goers by allowing the jamming of cellphones in movie theaters and concert halls. And Mexican churches have used them to keep their parishioners talking to God, rather than Snapchatting.

Now, if you don’t want to invest in the clothes or risk arrest by carrying around your own signal jammer, how about paying your friends the courtesy of purchasing this cell service-blocking hanky?

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Ariel Bogle, a contributor to Future Tense, is an associate editor at New America.

TODAY IN SLATE

Frame Game

Hard Knocks

I was hit by a teacher in an East Texas public school. It taught me nothing.

Chief Justice John Roberts Says $1,000 Can’t Buy Influence in Congress. Looks Like He’s Wrong.

After This Merger, One Company Could Control One-Third of the Planet's Beer Sales

Hidden Messages in Corporate Logos

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

How Can We Investigate Potential Dangers of Fracking Without Being Alarmist?

My Year as an Abortion Doula       

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 16 2014 9:22 AM The Most Populist Campaign of 2014
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 15 2014 7:27 PM Could IUDs Be the Next Great Weapon in the Battle Against Poverty?
  Life
Atlas Obscura
Sept. 16 2014 8:00 AM The Wall Street Bombing: Low-Tech Terrorism in Prohibition-era New York
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 15 2014 11:38 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 4  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Listen."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 9:13 AM Clive James, Terminally Ill, Has Written an Exquisitely Resigned Farewell Poem
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 7:36 AM The Inspiration Drought Why our science fiction needs new dreams.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 16 2014 7:30 AM A Galaxy of Tatooines
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.