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].