I have to admit it. I’ve really not given enough credit to the cell phone. I was somewhat of a late adopter. I had a late night job at the time, and had to commute, which put my trip home at around midnight on an unlit highway in an older car. What if? So I got a cell phone. It really provided me with security and comfort. I later used it when I had a girlfriend, to keep track, catch up and generally say nice things to each other. I’ve since talked to friends in California, daughters in Arizona, as well as stayed in touch with people at busy places.

After the readings articles for my class this week I developed an appreciation for these things. I also was made to see how important the cell phone has become as a tool for life. It is used to report emergencies, traffic conditions, weather developments; it has provided communication for people who would not normally have a phone, especially in some of the underdeveloped countries and rural areas. I hadn’t really appreciated how much this little cell phone has integrated itself into daily lives around the world.

The social implications are what I find most astounding. It has liberated groups of teens around the world; given them privacy from prying parents, and allowed them to form their own “tribes” either long term or ad hoc.

I have a a strong  interest in the use of cell phones for targeted marketing. I am fascinated with new media marketing. I’m hoping for some “smart marketing” where there is a chip that reads your preferences and provides instant access to goods and services that are tailored to your interests. It would be amazing to walk down a street and glance at your cell phone to receive this information, or perhaps to request a good mexican restautant in the area with a map of how to get there, as well as access to other peoples critiques of the food.

I also see new uses of the cell phone. I read an article about a daughter of a coworker, Julia Vallera who is creating bar code on t-shirts and bags that are encoded with your message. If someone holds their cell phone up to it, they will be able to read the message.

So I am going to be looking at my cell phone differently from now on. I promise to be nice to it, take it out to play, and even teach it new tricks.

Creating our iSociety

June 14, 2007

This week’s readings for my class about mobile technologies seem to have a theme of how we are using mobile technologies in daily life. There were diverse uses from Troops staying in touch with families at home, to teens texting each other during class. The technology is even being used to say “good night” and “good morning”.

There seems to be a reference that these devices are becoming an extension of ourselves. While I agree that these devices give us a means of extended contact with our social network and information in general, I don’t believe it should be so personalized. When I drive in my car, it becomes an extension of my legs. But I don’t think of it that way. It is mainly a device that I use to extend my ability to travel distance faster and farther. I think we should view the use of mobile communication devices in the same way. I realize this is an emerging technology, and our perspective on it is yet immature.

It seems the early adopters and the researchers are the ones who have uncertainties about the use of these devices. The youngest generation who are growing up with the technology seem to have found definite uses for them. We may not understand why someone would want to text someone while standing in line in a supermarket, but these people are using the technology in that way, so it has value to them. They are creating uses for the devices that address a perceived need that they have. This is not your father’s telephone. Speaking of which, I’m sure when the conventional phone became available, people wondered why someone would want one of those in their house. Well, we have certainly learned to incorporate it. It is a good example of the duality of technology. We create a technology, that, in turn, creates changes in our social structure.

When adopting new technology, I believe we should always ask “Why?”. Just because you can text message someone from a supermarket line, doesn’t inherently imbue it with value.

I think that for now, we are playing with possibilities. These devices are new and we haven’t figured out what we really want to do with them. In time we will incorporate them, or change how we do things to make the devices useful.

As I have been reading through the assigned articles for my class, and some of the commentary of other students, I sensed a degree of panic ensconced in both.

There is so much talk of the internet pulling us away from our “real” lives, living in a “floating world” and other such references to life becoming virtual or unreal. I sense a cry in the wilderness that is saying that our technologies have taken us away from what makes us human and social.

My view of all this differs. Maybe it’s because I was raised prior to the digital revolution, and had a “real” life without fear of absent presence, that I feel more of a sense of balance with digital technology.

I came slowly into modern technologies. I didn’t welcome the intrusion into my private time that the cell phone threatened; I saw little value in email and electronic communication; the internet was for scientists and other academics. Of course, that has all changed now, and I’m a happy user of digital technologies.

I realize that for the digital generation, there was no prior time to balance to. They have been raised in a frenetic, fast-paced, multi-tasking world that they have embraced, yet can hardly keep up with.

The Hegelian Dialectic comes to mind here: First there is the thing itself, which is the thesis. This brings forth a response of it’s opposite, which is the antithesis. Once things have swung widely in either direction they tend to settle on a compromise, or balance known as the synthesis.

I think the world I grew up in was the thesis. Life was a narrow focus of family, friends and work. Rarely would one reach out beyond their local world. The digital generation is the antithesis. They are so connected that one can’t even go to the restroom without the possibility of being called on their cell phone. I believe the synthesis would be a world that is not always on, but it could be.

Th understanding that I find missing in much of what I have read is that digital tools are just that. We should be directing their use and in control of our availability. When we want to reach out we have the technology to do so. I think this change would have to evolve from people not wanting to be in constant contact. It becomes more difficult to define oneself as an individual, when there is a constant stream of otherness intruding into our thoughts and worldly activity. If people come to value their individuality, and use their distributed networks as a tool, they may find balance in their lives.