RE: More than a trend, cellphones are a way of life

From: Vincent Campbell (
Date: Mon 27 Jan 2003 - 15:08:41 GMT

  • Next message: Van oost Kenneth: "Re: More than a trend, cellphones are a way of life"

    Hi Wade,

    Thanks for this. Fits in really nicely with some of the teaching I currently do, looking at the social impacts of new media technologies.

    I'm always interested in corporate research agencies like this (alright for
    'interested' read 'highly skeptical') in terms of their motives and methods.

    There's not a great deal to massively disagree with here, and the argument about new kinds of social networks through mobile phones has been put at length very recently by Howard Rheingold in his 'Smart Mobs'.

    What really interests (and here I genuinely mean interested) me is how alot of the currently sexy talk about things like network theory, information societies, complexity theory and so on gives a really firm basis for memetics, particularly artefactual memetics.

    ICTs are the meme machines, and the way new ones exploit, invade and transform social organisations and behaviour is what gives memes the platform to operate.

    For example, as mentioned in this piece the mobile phone disrupts neat demarcations of private and public space, just as the landline phone invaded space, as well as dislocating interpersonal communication from many of the things natural selection provided for us to function optimally (e.g. seeing and smelling the person you're talking to), whilst at the same time massively extending and enhancing the scope for information transmission and communication.

    Anywaym starting to blather.


    > ----------
    > From: Wade T. Smith
    > Reply To:
    > Sent: Sunday, January 26, 2003 7:15 PM
    > To: Memetics Listserv
    > Subject: Fwd: More than a trend, cellphones are a way of life
    > More than a trend, cellphones are a way of life
    > By D.C. Denison, 1/26/2003
    > More_than_a_trend_cellphones_are_a_way_of_lifeP.shtml
    > What happens when an electronic device, the cellphone, becomes so
    > popular it's ubiquitous? It becomes a lifestyle.
    > That was the premise of a recent study by a group of anthropologists
    > who observed cellphone users in seven cities around the world. Context
    > Research, based in Baltimore, uses a network of 3,500 anthropologists
    > to study consumer behavior for major clients like Microsoft and Kodak.
    > Last summer, it focused its anthropologically based analytic tools on
    > cellphone users. The resulting report, just published, appears to
    > support the group's initial assumption.
    > ''It's obvious that changes are coming that are much bigger than most
    > businesses expect,'' said Sean Carton, the ''chief experience officer''
    > at Carton Donofrio Partners Inc., the parent company of Context.
    > ''Cellphones and mobile communications in general are much more than
    > just a technological trend.''
    > The 36-page report, illustrated with stark documentary photographs of
    > the study's subjects using their cellphones in a wide variety of
    > locations, details a surprising number of lifestyle changes that are
    > emerging from the increasing use and integration of mobile technology.
    > For example, the study found that physical proximity is rapidly
    > decreasing as a barrier to forming communities among individuals. Since
    > wireless technology makes it easier to stay in touch, regardless of
    > location, cellphone users are able to maintain a network of friends and
    > colleagues that doesn't depend on face-to-face communication.
    > Also because wireless technology allows people to contact a person, not
    > a location (like traditional phones), the separation between private
    > and public space is starting to blur. Think about all the private phone
    > conversations that you've heard in the middle of public spaces:
    > annoying, but new. On the other end of the spectrum, ''alone'' no
    > longer means just physically alone; it means ''not connected.''
    > And who's organizing all this mobile networking? No one is ever
    > formally trained in the use of mobile technology, so it's the people
    > who are able to develop the ability to master these devices who become
    > key nodes in a communication network. Saturday night plans tend to flow
    > through the mobile users who are best able to orchestrate the group's
    > multiple mobile connections.
    > Ultimately, the study, loftily titled ''The Mobiles: Social Evolution
    > in a Wireless Society,'' makes the case that wireless technology is
    > enabling humans to return to their nomadic roots, freed from home- and
    > office-based technologies that forced us to into more sedentary
    > patterns.
    > Some of these observations may not strike you as particularly novel,
    > but they add up to much more than just a fascination with a new
    > technical toy. In fact, much of the report parallels the observations
    > made by Howard Rheingold in his recent book ''Smart Mobs,'' which
    > details some of the social and political changes brought about by the
    > increasing use of cellular phones, pagers, PDAs, and hand-held
    > computers.
    > Carton, who wrote some of the Context report, told me he was heartened
    > to see Rheingold came to some of the same conclusions after touring the
    > world's most advanced wireless communities in Tokyo, Helsinki, San
    > Francisco, and elsewhere.
    > ''It's still changing very rapidly,'' Carton said. ''Just two years
    > ago, we conducted a similar study, and we got different results: People
    > were fascinated by wireless, but it was more of a fetish, an electronic
    > object. It's become much more integrated into people's lives since
    > then.''
    > And Carton expects that the integration will continue to develop,
    > rapidly, now that open wireless technologies like WiFi have been added
    > to the mix.
    > ''All these lines are going to blur,'' he said. ''Wireless used to mean
    > cellphones. Now it's much more than that ... eventually people are
    > going to expect to be able to access information everywhere.''
    > However it develops, the Context report makes a good case for
    > consciously tracking the coevolution of wireless technology and
    > contemporary culture, particularly youth culture.
    > ''It's not surprising that teens are driving the integration of this
    > technology,'' said Robbie Blinkoff, the principal anthropologist at
    > Context. ''Teens have a lot of time, and friends, and they are very
    > good at sharing information.''
    > ''Many of the people in positions of power in business are a little too
    > old to appreciate the impact of mobile technology,'' Carton added.
    > ''Because most of the people who are driving this are between 12 and 25.
    > ''For them, a cellphone is not a wacky, extra electronic thing,''
    > Carton said, ''it's how they live.''
    > D.C. Denison can be reached at
    > This story ran on page D2 of the Boston Globe on 1/26/2003. Copyright
    > 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.
    > ===============================================================
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    > Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
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