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Airplane Mode

DAY, Michael (2015) Airplane Mode. [Artefact]

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DAY, contents Final.pdf - Publisher's typeset copy
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DAY, cover Final.pdf - Publisher's typeset copy
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Available under License All Rights Reserved.

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Abstract or description

This project responds to the vexed question of whether practices of reading have changed in response to the wider uptake of smartphones, social media, and the mobile internet. While the expansion of these technologies suggests that we are reading more than ever before, there is concern that the type of reading we are doing is less focused and more distracted than it might once have been (Carr, 2008).

Airplane Mode has been developed from a body of contextual research into an artist’s book that takes the form of an academic essay. It first explores ways in which reading has been conceptualised by critics of technology, identifying and critiquing the determinism present in claims that technology is diminishing the capacity for close attention. It then engages with theories of so-called ‘ubiquitous computing’ (Weiser & Seely-Brown, 1996) that posit technology as an ambient enhancement to everyday activity, and discusses how these have been overlooked in the drive to produce digital applications that have been designed using psychological tricks in order that they become addictive to their users.

It concludes by drawing a comparison between the ‘airplane mode’ available on many smartphones which severs all connective functionality from the device, and the process of entering ‘airspace’ when travelling internationally by air. A correspondence is noted between the devolution of power involved in being ‘airside’, and the loss of agency that is a consequence of not being permanently connected to social media and other digital systems. Full disconnection is framed as an extreme response to so-called information overload, when the more gradual introduction of friction into online interactions might be a more viable, sustainable, and ultimately more empowering method of dis-engaging with an overload of online written material.

Carr, N. (2008). Is Google Making Us Stupid? The Atlantic. [Online]. Available from: [Accessed: 6 November 2015].
Weiser, M. & Seely Brown, J. (1996). The Coming Age of Calm Technology. [Online]. 5 October 1996. Available from: [Accessed: 25 June 2018].

Item Type: Artefact
Additional Information: Acquired by Tate Britain for its book collection, March 2016 Manchester Artists Book Fair, Holden Gallery, October 2015 London Art Book Fair, Whitechapel Gallery, September 2015
Faculty: School of Creative Arts and Engineering > Art and Design
Depositing User: Michael DAY
Date Deposited: 19 Dec 2018 15:27
Last Modified: 19 Dec 2018 15:27

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