The Enhancer

The world of technology took an astounding leap in 1876. It made real time interaction at a distance possible with the invention of the landline telephone (Katz and Aakhus 2002). However, the landline telephone was still connected to the telephone network by a wire. The 21st century changed that. It marked the widespread uptake of wireless technologies; prominent among them was the mobile phone. For example, in 2005, calls from mobile phones surpassed those made from landline phones in the US (New Politics Institute 2006) and in 2006 the number of wireless subscribers surpassed the number of fixed line subscribers in India (Roy and Pachava 2009). As Kalba (2008, p645) states: 

Mobile phones have become the dominant mode of communication, surpassing the landline count by as much as eight or nine to one. 

Their dominance is also seen in the familiarity with which people use them. Familiarity with mobile phone technology has reached a level where people do not notice its presence until it is absent (Katz and Aakhus 2002). So much has it proliferated, that the tunes and beeps of the mobile phone have become part of the background noise of daily life. Plant (2000) in her expansive study on mobile phone states that even birds such as the starlings were seen impersonating mobile phone tones and melodies. With such familiarity, mobile phones are now being used in surprising ways not thought of before even by their designers and creators (Bell 2006).

A speaker that I heard last week emphasized that mobile technology enhances human life. I would further say that it augments the personal capabilities of human beings even the ability to exert influence on the situation one is facing in daily life. For example, mobile phone users have the ability to bring together Smart mobs through text messages as seen on the streets of Kiev in 2004 to protest election fraud. Another example is of Greenpeace Argentina who collected 3000 signatures for a petition via text messaging. They also asked 350000 people in their mobile phone network list to call legislators to lobby for the first federal forest protection act in 2007.

In personal lives, one can even guess how the mobile phone has given many the ability to  start, break, maintain, shape and even terminate romantic relationships.

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Bell, G. 2006. The Age of the Thumb: A Cultural reading of Mobile Technologies from Asia. Knowledge, Technology and Society. 19(2), pp41-57.

Kalba, K. 2008. The Adoption of Mobile Phones in Emerging Markets: Global Diffusion and the Rural Challenge. International Journal of Communication. 2 (2008), pp631-661.

Katz, J. E. and Aakhus, M. 2002. Introduction: framing the issues IN: Katz, J. E. and Aakhus, M. (eds.) Perpetual Contact: Mobile Communication, Private Talk, Public Performance. Cambridge: The Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge.

New Politics Institute. 2006. Mobile Media in 21st Century Politics [Online].

Plant, S. 2002. On the mobile: the effects of mobile phones on social and individual life [Online].

Roy, H. and Pachava, H. B. Telecom Growth Trajectory in India. SSRN [Online]. Available from: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1458908

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