Thursday, March 27, 2014


Pre-emptively, before I can even write a proper post about it, I would like to claim authorship of the name of a new social phenomenon -- some might call it a blight -- now making its appearance in this blessed land.

I call it "dumbwalking."

It is the glacial gait, with eyes and attention glued to the screen, of persons who are attempting to travel on foot while operating a smart phone.

Perhaps citizens of other lands where smart phones became items of mass consumption earlier than in Japan have their own words for it. If so I would love to hear about them.

One used to be able to make transfers through Tokyo, Shinjuku or Shibuya stations at a furious clip, with everyone else making minute adjustments to avoid collision with you. It would not be much -- a turn of an ankle, a slightly harder clutching to the breast of a package -- but everyone's mutual spatial awareness prevented impacts or blockages.

Now we have the dumbwalkers, meandering on their random, semi-catatonic, purblind courses amid the crowd. Blinded snails, they see neither where they are going nor the way anyone else is going.

"Smart phones make for dumb walks" I find myself saying over and over as each of these new technology-disabled pseudo-autistics impedes my forward, backward or anyward progress (yes, the aphorism is a modification of J.R.R Tokien's axiom in The Fellowship of the Ring of "Short cuts make for long delays" -- if ye be wanting to know).

With the ever greater use of smart phones and tablets, particularly by the more self-involved generations, I foresee a day -- and it will be soon -- when the famed Shibuya scramble crossing fails to clear.


Martin J Frid said...

I call them iZombies, just for fun.

Anonymous said...

The Daily Mail (which is a tabloid that disguises itself as journalism) bought a prank piece a while back of a "text safe" street in the more fashionable parts of London:

Anonymous said...

Irritating thing actually. I'm French, and living part-time in Japan. Same problem here and there : people stuck in a kind of bubble, whatever it is their muzik player, text message (no manner mode here) or conversation. Then nobody around matters. Speak overly loud - the loudest it is to remote countries, handle both the child cart and the phone as if you had three hands, stop in the flux to read your screen, and forget anything like conciousness of your surrounding.
Actually it also happens with people reading books (I like to read books) who can't here "please give me the way, I am changing here"

Zombies is a good name for it.
As it's not a realy new behaviour, we sometimes called such persons "sacred cows", vaches sacrées.