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Staring at phones in the rain once again…

Once again I was out in the rain walking around a city. Once again I was looking downwards and then up. I was also looking around and navigating through a city I have been to before but only for a meal and on my way to another place. I went there for a blogobar event many months ago. More recently I went through the city on my way to a Via Ferrata near La Chaux De Fond. This time was different. I was meeting people who stare at their mobile phones when walking around city. To many of you this describes what you think is wrong with society. Too many people withdrawing from society, not interacting. This isn’t the case.

These people who met from 10am on a saturday until 1145 before a group picture was taken are ingress players. Ingress as you know from previous posts is a muntiplayer augmented reality game that people play by walking around in the real world. They walk towards buildings, monuments, statues and other sights of interest. As a group, as I wrote about yesterday we had three missions as a group. I only did two of these with the group. One of them required a physical walk up to the castle of Neuchatel and back down the slope. As we walked we saw parts of the city which I had yet to see. The second walk was from the train station down towards the lake side.

This is relevant for two reasons. The first of these is that I am a hiker and in summer I spend my weekends in the mountains. The second is that I have walked around more cities than I can remember. The best way to get to know a city is by walking. You gain a sense of scale. You understand it’s geography and you also see what points of interest are where and how they are connected. Rome is a city which I visited many times alone. I love the city because I love the life style contrast between Geneva and Rome. I also love the city because of it’s history. Where else do you park a car in a basement next to some Roman walls. Where else do you have two Millenia of history so visible?

Ingress today offered me an opportunity to meet with strangers and do activities with them, to see parts of a new city and to have company. So often mobile phones are associated with solitude and isolation. Through this account you may understand that mobile phones and especially smartphones can be inclusive. The conversations that we had through social media have faded as the noise has gone up and this is where social augmented reality games can pick up. They can provide a new opportunity for people to connect.

Next month I plan on going to Firenze for another event. So far over 600 people have signed up. They will come from around Europe and around the world to meet in a beautiful city with a rich cultural history. This will be the backdrop for the game. I look forward to visiting the city once again and meeting new people precisely because of smartphones rather than despite of them.

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Modern Life Is A Western

A few afternoons ago I tuned in to a Western on Television and I thought about how similar our modern lives have become to Westerns. Either we’re the ones travelling all the time meeting new people and then leaving them behind or we’re the ones staying in place while everyone around moves. The Western is out of favour but modern life makes Westerns more relevant than ever. Life is about perpetually meeting new people. doing new things and visiting new places.

Every  Monday and Friday I arrive or leave work and see people with suitcases. Either they are leaving to another city for the weekend or coming back. Lives in a place like Geneva is a migratory one. On radio they announced that over 15 million passengers transited through that airport. There are far fewer people living in Geneva. Geneva has 184,500 people according to a google search several seconds ago. That’s 81 flights per capita. That’s not bad. That’s a trip back and forth twice a week for fourty weeks out of fifty one.

After this you have the jobs that people do. Humanitarian work, journalism, business etc. Every one of these activities keeps people travelling. If we are of the right age we are called The “Easyjet generation”. Can’t drive a car but can afford to fly every single weekend, see every european capital and have friends in every country. When I graduated we were 100 students from 120 countries… That’s not bad. This explains why when people ask where we’re from we mention a country rather than a city. ;-).

Imagine going back to village life, imagine going back to living within 30 kilometres of where we were born and never travelling beyond-

We are not just the easyjet generation. We are also the social media generation because phone costs and SMS are less affordable than facebook, twitter, instagram and google plus. Imagine how often a group of friends would meet up and converse without modern social networks. Imagine if the social networks had remained as a place for friends to converse with friends. If that was the case I would travel more because I would be sleeping on a couch at friends’ places in various countries.


How PADI divers see an over-romanticised side of diving


Whilst it is true that divers are at the beach every weekend the location is not quite that nice. Some of us are or were in the mountains every Saturday and in the lakes every Sunday. We did have to wear shoes because the dive site is a lake. We don’t all drink beer and are not always salty. What you will have to get used to is that 6 or 7am wake up to be at the dive site by 8 or 9 in the morning. You will also need to get used to the bath being used to rinse off all of the diving equipment Sunday afternoons. You won’t need to get used to beer drinking because not every diver drinks beer.