Work and Life in the Mobile Society/Life/Social
Communication is an indispensable part of our lives, enabling stronger relationships between us. Now, with mobile technology's sense of speed, flexibility, and instant connectivity, our means of communicating with each other and our interaction has been totally redefined. Mobile communication strengthens our relationships and encourages more active participation in each other's lives. These stronger relationships give us a feeling of closeness, security, comfort, and happiness. For these reasons, we invest in mobile communication and make our mobile devices a new part of our anatomy, without which we feel lost and cut off from the society around us.
Along with this radical transformation in communication to our society come its drawbacks. With the streamlined ability to communicate effortlessly and quickly, mobiles have discouraged the need for physical presence and have substituted convenience in its place. Akin to the convenient interaction produced and made popular by social networking sites, where the quantity of contacts has become its own reward more than the quality and depth of each, mobiles give us the illusion of real, substantial, lasting relationships when in fact they are largely superficial. Online services have exploited this hunger through social networking sites where meeting and connecting with others has become entirely disembodied and the quantity of relationships is more rewarding than their quality.
Another transformational change, for cell phones in particular, is the so-called digital dialect (e-language) and how it is affecting actual language, with many arguing that it has an undesirable effect. Katie Cincotta, in her article “Broken English”, discusses how texting is changing the English language, while others such as British linguist David Crystal argue that “new gadgets and habits have enhanced the language, adding a few hundred new words to the one million that already exist in English”, and that contrary to all this hand-wringing, texting actually "improves your literacy, as it gives you more practice in reading and writing". Likewise, Dr. Jean Mulder, a Canadian-born linguist and senior lecturer at Melbourne University, regards digital speak as an exciting new direction for English "that is perhaps only shocking in the speed at which it has spread to the mainstream.” Either way, when we think about how this e-language has revolutionized and dominated our means of communicating, we must recognize the state of the English language to be in an accelerated transformation with little certainty as to the positive or negative effects.
In her article, “On the mobile,” Dr. Sadie Plant theorizes that “In response to the novel physical and psychological demands made by mobiles, people have introduced new stances, gestures and bodily movements to their everyday behaviour.” She suggests two evolving body postures related to mobile use: speakeasy pose—“heads thrown back and their necks upright, giving out an air of self-assurance and single-minded refusal to be distracted by the outside world", and space-maker pose—"more introverted and closed; a gesture of withdrawal, particularly in the context of a busy city street." These forms of body comportment, these new body languages, give shape to the way our new social life exists in space and functions in a mobile society. They comprise new ways of existing in the world, forms that reorganize our social priorities and attention.
Dr. Plant continues, “The ability to handle mobile calls has become an important social skill. A ringing mobile will often take precedence over social interactions it disrupts: the need or desire to answer a call often outweighs the importance of maintaining the flow of face to face conversation. This is why even a silent mobile can make its presence felt as though it were an addition to a social group.” A mobile device can often be used without consideration to actual present company, and yet conversely – while we are alone - we turn to our mobile devices as a security blanket or something to fiddle with during socially-awkward moments. The need to actually become acquainted with someone in a social gathering may be upended by the virtual companionship and solace of a mobile device, without which we may feel vulnerable or insecure in such a setting. These new social and emotional dynamics reflect how the primacy of actual social-physical connection between people is now partly eclipsed or substituted by one's social-physical relationship with a mobile device.
In myriad ways mobile devices are reshaping our lives, our society, and our future. The speed of these technological changes and the corporate impulse to carve out a competitive advantage in the communications field make it so that social changes occur without prior regard to the impact upon society as a whole. It’s possible that society is embracing this revolution too naively, paying little attention to its long-term effects. We should remember that new technologies require the consideration of new rules, the need to establish mobile device protocols, not just in certain establishments and social spaces but, most especially and importantly, within ourselves. No one can argue that this seismic shift in the way people communicate with each other and evolve as social beings is here to stay and will continue to transform us.
- Cincotta, Katie. “Broken English.” The Age. 18 September 2008. Article on line. Available from http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2008/09/17/1221330909487.html Accessed 31 October 2008.
- Fogg, BJ. “New Horizons in Mobile Life and Our Social World.” The Mobile Life 2008: The Connected World. 2008. Article on line. Available from http://www.mobilelife2008.co.uk/ Accessed 31 October 2008.
- Plant, Sadie. “On the Mobile.” receiver magazine 2002. Article on line. Available from http://www.vodafone.com/flash/receiver/06/articles/pdf/01.pdf. Accessed 31 October 2008.