I have a new piece in openDemocracy, exploring cultural and economic transitions, via the shift from a society of cigarettes to one of smartphones. Here's a chunk:
...on a deeper psychological and cultural level, the difference between these two framing devices could scarcely be more profound. This touches on the malaise of anxiety that has become the dominant psychiatric disorder of our age. While smoking affirms the limits of time and space around us, smart phones do precisely the opposite. While one allows you to spend a finite chunk of time in a given space, as a break from the flux of work or travel, the other connects you to a more complex and fluid world beyond your immediate situation.
As framing devices go, the smart phone suffers from the inherent problem that it is leaky. It is constantly connecting us to other times, other places, absent people, absent places, some in the future and some in the past. The selfie may seem narcissistic, but it is captured with the possibility of being seen by others who are not present (at least, not yet). If it is an expression of anything, it is one of paranoia: paranoia that human memory is no longer adequate for experiences, that one may be seen by others, that one may not be seen by others.
This is a restless condition. Where the cigarette allows us to (in the immortal words of Oasis's horrifically bombastic 1997 album) be here now, a smart phone allows us to do precisely the opposite. In this psychological sense, it is the very antithesis of a cigarette. The transition from the one object in our pocket to the other speaks of a more general shift in the character of capitalism.