Mobo Brain: technology at the dinner table

Local author Jenz Johnson offers a new outlook on the role of mobile devices at meal time.

It this vast and untamed American future, just about everybody carries a mobile device.

While most of us have been subjected to impromptu tirades about smartphone etiquette (“not at the dinner table/7-11 checkout/live concert/in public ever”) at the behest of rigid yesteryear-niks who are still learning to cope with the modern world’s obsessive love/hate relationship with technology, local author Jenz Johnson posits that it is time to move forward and embrace our pocket ‘puters as allies.

In his latest book, Mobo Brain, Johnson suggests we digest information along with our entrees by committing the ultimate techno-taboo: playing with our phones during dinner.

Following suit with Albert Einstein’s assertion that one should “never memorize something you can look up,” Johnson presents a handful of scenarios in which bringing your smartphone to supper is not only appropriate, but advantageous.

Students, for example, can use meals as study time by saving test materials to a mobile device along with virtual clipping of books, articles, and personal notebooks.

For non-students who want to spice up dinner conversation, Johnson advises:

“If you know the groups of friends with whom you are dining is likely to fall into a debate about politics, you can save pieces of articles, charts and quotes to back up your points of view. If you know you’ll be talking sports, you can use your mobile brain to do more than just settle arguments as to which quarterback had the most touchdown passes—anyone could google that—you can delve deeper into arcane knowledge and save the most salient bits on your phone to rip apart over dessert.”

He goes on to show how to use a smart phone or tablet to data dump just about everything – recipes, task lists, project notes – and gives pointers on optimizing time spent in lines by reviewing and revising lists or studying.

But before you discard Johnson’s pro-phone philosophy as anti-social, quixotic, or just plain rude, check out his online guide to smart phone etiquette, which outlines a new protocol for tactfully integrating technology into our daily lives.

Underlying his vision of a pro-mobile world is the belief that technology should be used to augment the conversation at the table, not escape from it.

Share facts and liven up the discourse, don’t duck away from it.

As much a cultural manifesto as it is a guide to personal empowerment, Mobo Brain offers practical insight into the potential of our relationship with mobile technology which, like a fine meal, is best enjoyed guilt-free and in good company.


Jenz Johnson is the editor of Going Mobo magazine and author of Giga Bites: The Hacker’s Cookbook, a culinary-centric predecessor to Mobo Brain published nearly 20 years prior.

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Comments

My gut reaction is that this is wishful thinking.....but I must read this book.

I'd check it out too, but in the hands of my friends breaking out one's mobile at a gathering quickly devolves into a competition over who's seen the funniest new video clip the rest of us all just have to check out right now, and then to that one guy that wants us all to watch the Ferd Fteenthousand mock ad for the fteenthousandth time.

"Guess what? You just grew a third ball." Thanks, Dave. Dinner's gunna be a hoot.

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