Tech history professor David Stearns pointed out a post on Kempt magazine about a new idea for social gatherings called PhoneStack.

It works like this: as you arrive, each person places their phone facedown in the center of the table. As the meal goes on, you’ll hear various texts and emails arriving… and you’ll do absolutely nothing. You’ll face temptation—maybe even a few involuntary reaches toward the middle of the table—but you’ll be bound by the single, all-important rule of the phone stack.

Whoever picks up their phone is footing the bill.

As Dr. Stearns points out, there are at least two reasons to love this idea. First, “Instead of pretending that mobile phones are not really a distraction, it puts them front and center, acknowledging their potential for disruption.” Everyone who stacks their phone is saying that, for a few short moments, the people around them are the most important things in the world and that they have their full attention.

Second, ideas like this show us something about the way individuals and groups react to new technology. “When social groups adopt a new device, they often create rules or games like these to govern the use of that device when gathered together.”

Of course, this might not work for every gathering (Kempt got a boatload of negative responses and exceptions), but I do love the intentionality of a group of people acknowledging the challenges of smartphones and choosing to do something together to enrich their time.

Best app of 2012?

[HT: David Stearns]