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