Ming the Mechanic:
New social rules in a newly wireless society.

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 New social rules in a newly wireless society.2003-02-24 18:21
11 comments
picture by Flemming Funch

Smart Mobs mentions an article about the results of studies of cell phone usage, partularly among young people in Japan. The keitai (cell phone) use is so pervasive that it is effectively 100% for teenage girls. And now, the standard cell phones you get for free from the phone company have color screens, built-in cameras, Internet connectivity, etc. Particularly, the prevalent text messaging habits will seem strange to Americans, as text messaging hasn't really caught on here yet.
High school and college students generally do not have the home phone numbers of any but their closest friends. Before initiating a call to a keitai, they will, almost without exception, begin with a text message to determine availability; the new social norm is that you should "knock before entering." By sending messages like "Can you talk on the phone now?" or "Are you awake?" text messagers spare each other the rude awakening and disruption of a sudden phone call.

One teenage couple that participated in our study exchanged 30 text messages over the course of three hours as they watched television, ate dinner and did their homework, before engaging in a one-hour phone conversation. This voice contact was followed by another trail of 22 messages that kept them in contact until bedtime.

Keitai-wired youth are in persistent but lightweight contact with a small number of intimates, with whom they are expected to be available unless they are sleeping or working. Because of this portable, virtual peer space, the city is no longer a space of urban anonymity; even when out shopping, solo youths will send photos to friends of a pair of shoes they just bought, or send fast-breaking news about a hot sale that is just opening. After meeting face-to-face, a trail of text messages continues the conversation as friends disperse in trains, buses and on foot, nimble thumbs touch-typing on numeric keypads.

Just as Weblogs are distributing journalistic authority on the Internet, mobile media further de-centers information exchange by channeling it through networks that are persistently available to the mobile many.
There are some things I find appealing about that whole thing, about being in constant contact, even though I don't use my cellphone like that so far. Here's another article . People are less concerned about being late for appointments, because they're in constant contact. And they walk slower than they did 10 years ago, because they're always on the phone.


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