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Mobile Phone leads you by the nose?

In my earlier post titled, The Enhancer, dt. April7, 2017, I wrote about the mobile phone use enhanced capabilities of its users to a considerable extent. Continuing in the same vein, let me bring in the discussion the theory of technological determinism. According to the theory of technological determinism, human destiny is driven by an underlying logic associated with scientific laws and their manifestation in technology.  As such, technology is perceived as an external factor that transforms institutions, interactions, as well as individuals (Negroponte 1995). However, according to Eldridge (2007), Raymond Williams criticizes simplistic cause-effect determinism, and favours a modified notion of ‘determination’ that there exist variable possibilities and alternatives within the set of limits. 

Mobile telephony is an appropriate example of how individuals feel determinative pressures to conform to a ‘technological form of life’. For example, even an incoming call usually provokes a sense of expectation and urgency and one feels compelled to answer a ringing phone (De Souza e Silva 2007). My earlier post: Mobile Phone: attraction…distraction? dt. April 4, 2017 also gives several examples of how the presence of the mobile phone compels its users to act in ways that could be detrimental to their personal and social well-being. Additionally, the speaker that I heard last week, which I alluded to in my post, The Enhancer, shared 10 trends in technology that are envisioned to replace some of the important aspects of personal life and business. Read the article by Todd, D: Robots are coming to work. Is a guaranteed income far behind?  or Waugh, R: If your job is on this list, you could be replaced by a robot by 2020, to get a glimpse of the extent of the impact of technology on human life and business.

Furthermore, young people live in ways that presume the availability of mobile telephony. In fact, without it they feel that a part of “themselves” is missing. However, I believe that the relationship between technology and society is not necessarily one of external force, such as mobile phone, forging and transforming social life and cultural patterns. For example, Bell (2006) points to young mothers for whom mobile phones were not ‘umbilical cords’ and that they could do without them. Hence, Ito (2004) remarks: 

Though the mobile phone is an acclaimed piece of technology, nothing ‘inherent’ in the mobile handsets themselves is socially or culturally transformative. 

I would rather believe that technologies themselves are a result of social and cultural structures.

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

De Souza e Silva, A. 2007. Interfaces of Hybrid spaces IN: Kavoori, A. P. and Aceneaux, N. (eds.) The cellphone reader: essays in social transformation. New York: Peter Land Publising Inc

Eldridge, J. 2007. Beyond 2000: Remembering Raymond Williams. Fifth-Estate-Online – International Journal of Radical Mass Media Criticism [Online]. Comment. April 2007

Ito, M. 2004. Personal Portable Pedestrian: Lessons from Japanese Mobile Phone Use IN: Mobile Communication and Social Change, The 2004 International Conference on Mobile Communication, October 18-19, 2004.

Negroponte, N. 1995. Being Digital. London: Hodder and Stoughton

Todd, D. 2015. Robots are coming to work. Is a guaranteed income far behind? Vancouver Sun, Canada: September 6

Waugh, R. 2016. If your job is on this list, you could be replaced by a robot by 2020, Metro News, UK: March 28, 2016

Mobile Youth Culture

There is no doubt that the diffusion and influence of mobile communication in the last decade was nothing short of extraordinary. The key factor in the speed of diffusion was the embrace of the technology by the younger generation (Oksman 2010) especially in Japan and Northern and Western Europe (Lim and Hellard 2008). The young people in their teens, twenties and early thirties were the heaviest and largest proportion of mobile phone users (Castells et al. 2004). However, the widespread diffusion among the younger population was not confined to a few countries only. Castells et al. (2007) notes the presence of a youth culture across different continents which found an adequate form of expression in mobile communication. He termed this form of culture as the ‘Mobile Youth Culture’.

Such a culture manifested itself in surprisingly innovative ways of mobile phone use. Some of the uses for mobile phone telephony invented by young people were not even foreseen by the initial designers of the technology e.g. the first text message was sent in 1993 by a Nokia engineering student and the companies thought it was not important (Agar 2003). Furthermore, some of the creative uses of mobile phones are introduced to adults by their children e.g. sending “missed calls” (Donner 2007; read my earlier post on “missed calls” dt. march 21, 2017

There is no doubt that the diffusion and influence of mobile communication in the last decade was nothing short of extraordinary. The key factor in the speed of diffusion was the embrace of the technology by the younger generation (Oksman 2010) especially in Japan and Northern and Western Europe (Lim and Hellard 2008). The young people in their teens, twenties and early thirties were the heaviest and largest proportion of mobile phone users (Castells et al. 2004). However, the widespread diffusion among the younger population was not confined to a few countries only. Castells et al. (2007) notes the presence of a youth culture across different continents which found an adequate form of expression in mobile communication. He termed this form of culture as the ‘Mobile Youth Culture’.

Such a culture manifested itself in surprisingly innovative ways of mobile phone use. Some of the uses for mobile phone telephony invented by young people were not even foreseen by the initial designers of the technology e.g. the first text message was sent in 1993 by a Nokia engineering student and the companies thought it was not important (Agar 2003). Furthermore, some of the creative uses of mobile phones are introduced to adults by their children e.g. sending “missed calls” (Donner 2007). Young people also used mobile phone communication to form collective networks, co-ordinate their movements, carry out business relationships, maintain romantic liaisons, circumvent hierarchy, and communicate despite space and time constraints, or merely keep in constant touch.

In the present times, mobile phones have become so integral to the daily lives of young people that their absence seems almost unimaginable (Plant 2000; read my earlier post: The Enhancer, dt. April 7, 2017). The Mobile phone has become an icon of the youth generation (Castells 2007), and has gained worldwide acceptance as a technology that promotes the ability of young people to confidently manage tasks (situations and relationships) that they face in their daily lives.

). Young people also used mobile phone communication to form collective networks, co-ordinate their movements, carry out business relationships, maintain romantic liaisons, circumvent hierarchy, and communicate despite space and time constraints, or merely keep in constant touch.

In the present times, mobile phones have become so integral to the daily lives of young people that their absence seems almost unimaginable (Plant 2000). The Mobile phone has become an icon of the youth generation (Castells 2007), and has gained worldwide acceptance as a technology that promotes the ability of young people to confidently manage tasks (situations and relationships) that they face in their daily lives.

Agar, J. 2003. Constant Touch: A global History of the Mobile Phone. UK: Icon Books

Castells, M., Fernandez-Ardevol, M., Qui, J. L. and Sey, A. 2004. IN: The International Workshop on Wireless Communication Policies and Prospects: A Global Perspective, October 2004. University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

Castells, M. Fernandez-Ardevol, M., Qui, J. L. and Sey, A. 2007. Mobile Communication and Society: A Global Perspective. Cambridge: MIT Press The Mobile Communication Society: a cross-cultural analysis of available evidence on the social uses of wireless communication technology

Donner, J. 2007. The rules of beeping: Exchanging messages via intentional “missed calls” on mobile phones. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13(1), article 1 [Online].

Lim, M. S. and Hellard, M. E. 2008. SMS STI: a review of the uses of mobile phone text messaging in sexual health. International Journal of STD and AIDS. 19(5), pp287-290.

Oksman, V. 2010. The mobile phone: a medium in itself. Finland: VTT Publications 737. 89 [Online]

Mariek, M.P. and Vanden, A. 2016. Mobile youth culture: A conceptual development. Mobile Media & Communication. 4(1), pp.85-101

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

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.

—-

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

Mobile Phone: distraction…attraction?

One of the common complaints that mobile phone communication is stuck with is that it generates distraction. Cognitive distraction occurs when an individual’s focus is not directly on the task which requires primary and a larger load of attention, and his/her mind “wanders” in other activities, such as, sending and receiving texts or calls, listening to music, playing games, connecting to the internet, repeated glancing expectantly on the phone etc. Below are some ways in which people get distracted from their primary task because of various aspects of mobile phone communication.

1.       The presence of a mobile phone around us takes our attention to the larger social community who can be reached by texting, calling, or the internet.

2.       Mobile phone reduces the quality of social interaction. Often even when you are physically with a group of friends, people catch themselves engaged with the larger social community, than with the one in whose presence you physically are.

3.       Researchers have found that sending and receiving messages during class makes students less effective at tasks such as note taking or paying attention to a class lecture.

4.       It is common knowledge, even with the fear of punishment, that mobile phones cause drivers to shift their eyes and minds off the road which have resulted in loss of life and property.

5.       People have acknowledged, often to their embarrassment, that they physically bumped into another person or an object in public view, when they were distracted by talking or texting on their phone.

6.       Many workplaces restrict mobile phone use when employees are on work duty because sending/receiving personal text messages or getting immersed in mobile phone based activities distracts employees from their job tasks and takes away time that is allocated for performing work duties.

7.       Crossing the street is a complex task, involving judgements about distances, speed, and acceleration patterns of vehicles. Using the mobile phone, while crossing or walking down the streets, is a dangerous distraction particularly for pre-adolescent children. It puts pedestrians at greater risk for both accidents and crime.

Were you distracted from any task because mobile phone communication? If so, please share your experience. From which primary task you were distracted and what aspect of mobile phone communication distracted you? Don’t forget to add any suggestion you would want to make about this topic with the community.

Finally, here’s a video by Nicole Cleveland that says it in video:

No More Nomophobia

A conversation with one of my colleagues steered towards a discussion an addiction to mobile phone use. In fact, when I reflected on it later, I recalled that when I leave house for work, I check my pockets to ensure that I have carried my mobile phone. It is become a routine. If I have forgotten it, something feels missing. And when I realize that I have forgotten my mobile phone and I am far away to return to get it, I catch myself cursing me. I feel uncontactable (as if mobile phone is the only way to contact me), unconnected, incomplete, hampered, inconvenienced, in short, debilitated. This dependency on the mobile phone and the related anxiety without it is going unnoticed in people’s lives.

It is not just me. Nomophobia is on the rise. Nomophobia (No Mo-bile Phone Phobia) is a term that describes a phenomenon notices in people where they fear being without a mobile phone or without mobile phone contact. It is a type of psychological and physical dependency on the mobile phone. Numerous research studies are being carried out on this subject.

Source: Hubpages-The rise of Nomophobiahttps://hubpages.com/technology/Nomophobia-on-the-Rise-Statistics-and-Studies-Reveal-the-True-Story

Do you think that you could be part of this statistic? I tried the following three tactics to start with, to detox myself of this phobia. It indeed helped. Now I feel I do not miss much if I do not have my mobile phone with me during these times. Not a bad beginning, I think. So here are my methods. You can try these or think of your own.

  1. Get a real alarm. Keep the mobile phone 5 feet away from your bed at night.
  2. Keep the mobile phone away when you are eating your meals.
  3. Set times when you will use your mobile phone.

Do send it your replies with ways that you think will be helpful for a detox from nomophobia.

Here’s a video that lends some insight:

Honey, I missed your call.

A missed call is a telephone call that is terminated by the caller before being answered by its intended recipient, in order to communicate a pre-agreed message without paying the cost of a call. The aim is to request a call back from the person called or to communicate an agreed accepted message. The receiver of the missed calls interprets the message according to the kind of relationship he/she has with the sender and the meaning of past missed calls.

Dr. Jonathan Donner, one of the earliest researcher on missed calls, identifies the behavior as a strategy to communicate at low or no cost to the sender and recipients. According to him, missed calls are of three types: pre-negotiated missed calls, relational missed calls, and call-back missed calls. The call-back is the most common call where the sender sends a missed call to the receiver and the receiver is supposed to reply by making a voice call to the sender and thus pays for the call. This is common practice among parents and children where the children make a missed call to the parent who has to make a voice call in return. Thus the children get to preserve their pre-paid credit. Also, couples resort to this strategy where wives miscall husbands who return the call to save the wives credit. The Pre-negotiated missed calls means that the caller sends a message that is pre-arranged. For example: one miscall could mean “I’ve reached home”, two missed calls could mean “Pick me up” or three missed calls could mean “task completed”. The third kind of missed called are relational missed calls which are more popular among teenagers. For example: one beep could mean “I love you”, two could mean “I am thinking of you” or three could mean “good night”. Such behavior even though beneficial to mobile phone users is considered a considerable threat to service providers as missed calls users the network capabilities without generating revenue and also contributes in clogging the network.

I am leaving a link if you wish to read how people use missed calls: https://forum.wordreference.com/threads/give-me-a-missed-call-misscall-etc.2727483/

For a detailed look at research on missed calls refer to: Donner, J. (2007) The Rules of Beeping: Exchanging Messages Via Intentional “Missed Calls” on Mobile Phones. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. Volume 13: Issue 1 Pgs 1-22.

The resurrection of Nokia 3310

Right at the outset, let me state that this post is not meant to be an endorsement for Nokia 3310.

In a class lecture two weeks ago my colleagues discussed why this model, that successfully retired in 2005 after having sold 126 million units in just five years, is making a comeback. This was the first phone that I had and was plainly surprised and delighted by the news last month at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona of Nokia3301’s resurrection. According to Nokia, if all the Nokia 3310/3330 phones sold were laid end-to-end, the line would stretch from Helsinki, Finland to Santiago, Chile – over 13,500 kilometers. But is Nokia making an error with a model that lacks Wi-Fi support and offers sluggish 2.5G network compatibility? or does it make some business sense to resurrect it? I searched for answers.

Here are a few reasons from different sources why this model would be desirable.

  1. It boasts of a long -lasting battery life, up to 31 days, alongside 22 hours of talk time. It may be useful to travelers steering the unfamiliar city and who need to be in communication and not certain of getting the phone charged. It may also be useful to managers who are constantly managing meetings, tweeting, or traveling and whose smart devices are always in need power. For both, a phone meant for communication and long battery life may be a blessing.
  2. All over the world, the number of landline phones are dwindling giving way to the rise of individually owned mobile phones. For example, according to the Communications Monitoring Report 2015, more Canadian households had mobile phones (84.9%) than landlines (78.9%) – a big change from only ten years ago, when just over half of Canadian households subscribed to mobile phones (53.9%) and almost all owned landlines (96.3%). In developing countries, the landline telephone has declined due to the advancement of mobile network technology because it is easier to erect wireless mobile towers than lay copper wires. In this scenario, a Nokia 3310 with the basis features might come in handy as a shared resource, a home phone where all members are glued to their personal smart devices.
  3. There are large populations all over the world that still do not have a mobile phone particularly in the developing world. Source: Consumer Technology Association <https://www.cta.tech>

HMD Global, the Finnish company that licensed Nokia technology may be looking to tap this market. In fact last year they unveiled $25 feature phone models for users in Europe, the Asia Pacific, India, the Middle East, and Africa.

  1. The internet increasingly discussing talking about a digital detox and the angst in a society saturated with technology.

In such a scenario, Nokia 3310 may be an antidote to switch yourself off and yet to have a communication lifeline.

The Tree and the Mobile Phone

In one of my research projects a participant recounted an incident of her life that lends itself well to this blog. She described to me how she had worked hard for her semester and was waiting for a perfect summer vacation. She had meticulously arranged every detail that would make it an vacation enjoyable. For this escape, she would be travelling to her grandmother’s village which she had last visited when she was only five years old. When she thought of her grandmother’s village, many picturesque memories would float in her mind—the green forest cover, the wide village roads, the rice, maize and wheat fields, the fruit laded coconut, mango and guava trees, and the friendly banter of the village folk who were aware of every new face visiting the village, through the gossip that filtered through the common spaces like the health center, market days and village squares. In this delightful setting, Mini (name changed), now 18, had planned to spend her well-deserved break.

the-tree-and-the-mobile-phone-resized
Uploaded from http://flickr.com/photo/56796376@N00/1982687708 using Flickr upload bot

The day finally arrived. She boarded the bus, took her seat, and in a minute, was on her way. As she left the concrete of her city behind, she maintained her gaze outside the window of her bus to delight her eyes with every green scene that she had missed in her city. As she neared the village, what she saw would further strengthen her conviction to be an environmental hero.

From her window, she observed some village folk chopping down a tree…a full-fledged tree in a nearby field. She was disturbed. There was a conflict in her mind. Conflict between what she stood for in her college groups that worked for safeguarding the trees, her convictions about saving the environment, her carefully planned vacation, and what was unfolding before her very eyes! But her convictions got the better of her. She launched herself into an ‘activism’ mode.

She inquired about the exact location of the spot from the bus driver. If she got off the bus and tried to stop the chopping, would the consequences of her opposition to the tree felling act be detrimental to her wellbeing, she questioned and feared. She decided not to leave the bus. Also, she had her vacation to look forward to and her grandmother was waiting for her. In that situation, the only way she thought she could stop the environmental destruction happening before her eyes, and yet enjoy her time with her grandmother was to reach out to her mobile phone.

She grabbed her mobile phone, dialed the emergency number, got the reference of the forest department, punched in the number of the forest department, placed a complaint, gave her details and the location of the illegal activity, took down the reference number of the complaint, and the name of the recording officer. She felt satisfied that she had done her duty. But she was uncertain if her complaint would be acted upon, and if the tree would be saved. The bus was speeding away, and the time was short. Every tick of the clock was shortening the life of the tree. Mini began to lose hope and thought of forgetting the entire episode. Ten minutes into the journey, she heard sirens from the opposite direction. Two forest department jeeps were driving in the direction of the location that she had provided. She turned back to see as far as she could. Meanwhile the bus sped ahead and Mini hoped that her efforts would not be in vain.

The next day she read a report in a local daily of how the forest department had protected a tree on receiving a tip-off from a phone call made by an unknown college student. The news story encouraged others to be such environmental heroes. Mini in her heart felt a sense of happiness, achievement, and fulfillment. 

A week later she was on her way back to her city. She noticed the tree still intact, and cordoned off by yellow tape and marked, ‘Under Forest Department Protection’.  In a crucial moment, her mobile phone had assisted her in saved a tree and had made her an unknown hero.

 

Non-User to User…a sampling story!

My first phone, a Nokia 3310. A friend of mine offered it to me in 2004. From then on, I became a mobile phone user from a non-user. Are there people who still do not use mobile phones? I wonder. More on that some other time. But when I was a non-user of the mobile phone, I convinced myself that I did not need it and I could easily manage without it. It would merely be an unnecessary clutter on my desk and in my life. I did not want to be environment unfriendly or fall prey to consumerism by possessing one more gadget. Also, I was unfamiliar with this technology. Why should I invest every month in maintaining a new status symbol that I would not use regularly? These thoughts, at first, made me reluctant to accept the no-string-attached, gratuitous offer from my friend. On the other side, I was fascinated with the capabilities that books and newspaper articles attributed to the mobile phone, and the status that was attached to possessing it. Eventually, the lure of this new technology won. I ended up accepting this gift not aware that it had the potential of making me dependent on one of the most sought-after innovation by marketers, businesses, entrepreneurs, and lay folk as well. Little may my friend have envisaged, that that offering me that “sample” of a mobile phone would eventually transform me into a versatile mobile phone user who uses this device for talking, texting, blogging, tweeting, organizing, communicating, reminding, storing, driving business, research, teaching, relaxing and practically managing almost every need of my life.

free-sampling-is-backfree-sampling-is-back

Product sampling and free trials are back! These are tried and tested techniques that brands have used to introduce people to their products, services, concepts, and insights and to build brand affinity. But they are under-utilized. In a survey conducted by Young America in 2015, 53 percent of those surveyed said they often or always end up buying a product that they sampled. But, 60 percent said they did not receive any trial samples in the past year. For the complete research findings, read: https://www.bulldogreporter.com/product-sampling-builds-brand-affinity-but-sampling-is-an-under-utilized-marketing-tool-according-to-new-ya-study/

only CHANGE is permanent

I got my first personal mobile phone in the year 2004. This 133 gms (4.69 oz.) 22mm thick Nokia 3310 was released in the year 2000. Its features were messaging, clock, alarm, and some games. It did not have a browser, WLAN, GPS, Bluetooth, or a card slot. It could hold a record of only 8 dialed, 8 received, 8 missed calls. How I acquired this phone will be the subject of a different blog. But without doubt I was excited to display it. It was discontinued in 2005 but I was surprised to hear the rumor lately that Nokia launching this indestructible handset again.

Move forward to 2016. Between now and then I got hold of and abandoned various other phones. Today I have a Samsung galaxy S6. Released in 2015, it was 138 gms (4.87 oz.) with 6.8 mm thickness. Very different from my first possession, this gadget has a Nano SIM, 16M colors, touchscreen, 5.1 inches display, browser and more and more and more. . I’m not marketing for Samsung but compared to my first phone, this device was a sleeker piece of art promising a grand experience. How I got this piece is again another story. But Without doubt, I was thrilled to get it. This gadget and others of its caliber allude to the evolution that has occurred over this period in manufacturing, designing, businesses, marketing, and management among other things. Even behaviors and attitudes have either been modified, tweaked, or completely changed. Mobile phone evolution is another visible proof that technologies have either been replaced, modified, or even died.

mobile_phone_evolution
pic By Anders – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1427841

Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, is quoted as saying: “the only thing that is constant is change”. To be in the forefront of business and management practices therefore, it is very crucial to recognize change, acknowledge change, embrace change, manage change, be a part of change.