MOBILE COMMUNICATION AND SOCIETY – A Global Perspective

By Manuel Castells, Mireia Fernandez-Ardevol, Jack Linchuan Qiu and Araba Sey

Mobile Communication and Society by Castells, Manuel, Qiu, Jack Linchuan, Fernandez-Ardevol, Mireia, 9780262033558

Review D. Bandini

I chose this book for three reasons: first it was about mobile communications, something I hope to get stronger in; second because it was written by a Chair of Annenberg; and third because it was available in the library. As I was narrowing a choice, it was hard to find a book that was copy written recently, as this was published in 2007. This was not the best choice for the simple reason it is chock full of early mobile stages, but most data doesn’t go past 2004. Between 2004 and 2011 there has been a major mobile revolution. The part I am most interested in, of course. But it did go to great lengths and exhaustive research to nail the actual facts and figures of mobile globally up until 2004. No small feat. It is indeed a dense research book.

There are 12 chapters in the book. I will skim through them for you. If you love facts and figures and numerical statistics you will love this book. I like smart phones, video games, and new technology. I should have listened to Clint’s suggestions.

  • Opening: Our Networks, Our Lives

Americans should be proud. We really adopted mobile technology faster than other countries. I did not know there were mobile phones in 1976, but there were 44,000. By 1990 there were 5 million. America basically had competing networks on different standards, similar to what we see today. This actually slowed our adoption rate outside of business use quite significantly. Europe adopted one standard (GSM, invented in Norway) for most countries and their cell phones surpassed their land lines years before ours did. At the time of this book printing Asia was still developing. Singapore had the government to thank for the push into mobile as it is a partner in manufacturing and distribution. I could go on and on with more facts, but basically what really opened up cell phones to most countries was either — the standard, the pricing via competition, or the ability to pay as you go. The pay as you go made it possible for poor countries to have a phone and a lifeline they would normally not have.

  • The Diffusion of Wireless Communications in the World

This is a look at who is using cell phones and why. Long distance workers were quick to adopt the technology like truckers or field workers. For field workers, it would take them a year to save to buy a pay-as-you-go phone, they would get patchy service and they spent most of their money on their phone which often was stolen because it was a status symbol. I love the imagery of the accessories the phones first came with, the belt clips and colored snap-on covers. This chapter shows how different demographics use the phones in different ways. Adults used it to talk, teens to text. Texting took off in a big way everywhere except America because most of the phone companies were not willing to open their services up to other carriers for a long time.

  • The Social Differentiation of Wireless Communication Users: Age, Gender, Ethnicity, and Socioeconomic Status

I love the imagery of the accessories the phones first came with, the belt clips and colored snap-on covers. This chapter shows how different demographics use the phones in different ways. Adults used it to talk, teens to text. Texting took off in a big way everywhere except America because most of the phone companies were not willing to open their services up to other carriers for a long time.

  • Communication and Mobility in Everyday Life

In this chapter he discusses the pros and cons of being available at any time. How mobile phones can define class. He talks about families being able to coordinate better through the mobile phone and manage their personal lives with more flexibility. Learning mobile phone etiquette when out and about.

  • The Mobile Youth Culture

This is hilarious. He talks about texting again, quite a bit and how it has morphed into its own language. He goes over personalization of phones. His examples are ringtones, photos, and video games like “snake.” Like snake‼ He also discusses how phones with cameras have been used to bully and humiliate teenagers at the hands of other teenagers and what the cultural ramifications means for this new technology. Wi-Fi is also introduced and debated.

The world is getting smaller. Reaching out and touching someone is more cost effective and easier now. No more busy signals, always a voicemail or text.  Because a mobile phone is not connected to a desk or a wall, it feels free. There is a different experience. Public places are now places that private personal interactions are made via mobile. New social patterns emerge through timeless connection possibilities. Response time can be shortened.

  • The Language of Wireless Communication

He again explores SMS and MMS texting and messaging. He talks about how caller ID has changed the way people call each other and pick up or do not.

Here is explores using mobile technology to rally people together. No doubt he was onto something. Little did he know that Twitter was coming. He points out several major political shifts partly attributed to mobile technology including the ousting of President Estrada in the Philippines, the electoral defeat of the Spanish Partido Popular, the voting power of Korean President Moo-Hyun and protests of the Republican party all organized and distributed via mobile texts, messages and calls. The mobile phone can affect big political change. Security, Wi-Fi, satellite phones are a few other topics.

This goes into economics of emerging and developing countries. He discusses how mobile phone affect the digital divide between countries with advanced technology and those without, pricing and how the poorest pay the most of their wages and get the worst service. For some countries the mobile phone is the only way they will ever discover the internet at all.

  • Conclusion: The Mobile Network Society

Mobile phones have a revolutionary impact on our society of 2004 and prior, no doubt. I wish I could learn his thoughts on the mobile technology of today! The revolution feels like is barely just getting started!

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