Smartphone Misuse, Gravity and Eye Placement

There’s a thing that people do with their Smartphones that really irritates me, and when I witness this ‘misuse’ occurring, I always have a good moan saying “why are you doing it like that?”. The usual reply is “Why, what’s wrong?”. And that got me thinking; why do I think what they’re doing is wrong?

You’ll notice I’ve not revealed what it is that irritates me so much,  that’s because I’m hoping you’ll guess as I write …

So is my ‘Smartphone misuse’ irritation based on some irrational bias, coming from my own particular experiences; my age, my upbringing, etc? Or could it be justified through a chain of ‘objective’ reasoning?

This is what I find interesting really – the ‘cognitive’ processes used in trying to answer this. I find it enjoyable when, on the fly, you call on your general knowledge to have a go at making a reasonable argument about something you’ve no expertise in, and that you’ve never thought about before. How your brain attempts to pull strands of knowledge together, and arrange them in a new way that seem to support each other. The results of course vary – sometimes nonsense, sometimes not. Maybe you can decide? Anyway, here goes… Smartphone misuse.

Eye Placement

Many animals have eyes, and the vast majority of those that do, have two. Even with compound eyes, there’s usually two of them. More importantly though in this context; the two eyes are virtually always placed in parallel – one left, and one right. Why is this? Why not one top, one bottom, or just randomly placed somewhere on the face?

For most land based creatures it might seem fairly obvious why this is. They’re pretty much ‘stuck’ on the ground and are therefore restricted to a horizontal plain. With the most important activity likely to be happening on that plain, the left-right eye placement makes perfect sense for scanning the horizontal –  the horizon . Most of the time we need not be overly concerned with what’s happening in the sky, or on the ground around our feet, so we have developed a ‘field of vision’ that reflects all this.

But birds have left-right eye placement too, as do most sea creatures, and they’re not stuck on horizontal plains?


However the fact is most birds and sea animals do operate on horizontal plains. There are probably lots of reasons for this – competition and exclusivity around food sources for example. But I think gravity may play a part too.

We’ve all experienced the extra effort required to walk up even the slightest of inclines. That’s gravity doing its thing, requiring we expend more energy resisting its pull.

Energy is precious to all living creatures, including birds and fish, so to avoid using that energy fighting gravity, maybe it’s best they just do lefts and rights whilst minimising the up and down options they uniquely have?

Would we have parallel left-right eye placement if we evolved in a low gravity area of Space, where there’s no left-right, up or down? No real vertical or horizontal plains of activity?

The Moving Image

In the last 100 years or so this left-right eye placement has been reflected back to us in the frame of the moving image. Cinema screens have always been wider than they have been high. In fact generally, they’ve got progressively wider over time. The same is true for television and computer screens. Even video frames on the Web use this ratio. It’s a situation that we never really question – it’s totally logical and completely sensible – because it represents what we visually experience every day of our lives.

So why then would anyone think is was suddenly OK to start filming “the wrong way around”!? Thousands of idiots on their Smartphones it seems!!

Vertical movies, with 40% sky, 40% foreground, and “oh look! there’s something going on in the middle that I can’t really see, because they’ve had to zoom-out in order to get it inside that ridiculous narrow frame?”

Smartphone Misuse

Having briefly explained the origins for the shape of cinema screens, I wonder how many Smartphone users have considered the shape of their Smartphones? Well before they were ‘smart’ they were just ‘phones’, and as most peoples ears are higher up their head than their mouths, phones are generally used in a near vertical orientation. Hence number pads and later icons, etc are displayed vertically. But come on, use your head, make that tiny leap; this doesn’t mean you can’t ever turn the bollocking thing around!

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