Week 5: Mobility – The intertwinement of mobile technology and social communications

Ito, Mizuko. “Mobile Phones, Japanese Youth and the Replacement of Social Contact.”In Ling, Rich and Pedersen, Per, Eds. Mobile Communications: Re-negotiation of the Social Sphere. London: Springer – Verlag, 2005, 131-148

This reading has been one of the most interesting to me personally, mainly because the issues, reasons and logic behind mobile media (particularly texting) according to Mr Mizuko’s research is largely accurate by my own personal accounts.

The key aim being addressed by Mizuko is set to be analysing the apparent upheld belief (spread largely by popular media) that mobile media are destroying traditional household and authorities structures.

His research shows otherwise. By recording all forms of communication in-between the research subjects (largely mobile taechnology); he shows contrary evidence to suggest otherwise.

Instead of breaking down or destroying social hierarchy, Mizuko argues a key concept that mobile technology is rather a way of bypassing the hierarchy or social structure, in such a way that mobile technology is now accepted in its most frequently used forms.

By his research, Mizuko concludes how “the prevailing social norm is that no-voice mobile communication is permissible”, more precisely the use of mobile emails or text messages. Whilst voice communication over mobiles may be inappropriate at times (such as in uni lectures and tutorials) text based conversations are more permitable, being quite and discrete. If I recall correctly, the guest lecturer in the most recent ARTS1090 lecture (it may have been another lecture) said that text messaging was okay, but not voice conversations with each other.

Another concept raised in the reading is the creation of a rather new world of constant social communication through mobile media. With many people rarely ever turning off their mobiles, mobile technology has provided the means of constant social contact. Mizuko uses a text message conversation between a college couples as an example. Speaking from personal experience myself, I can clearly relate to this case. After spending a day with my plus 1, we usually send a series of text messages to each other, attempting to prolong our day which we spend with each other (albeit without physical contact).

Nowadays, there is little ‘alone’ in social communication, even when you may be physically alone at home. Whilst at home, mobile technology and the internet have strengthened social communication when physical contact is not possible. MSN Messenger, for example, represents a continuous text based conversation(s) with up to multiple people at once. If however, I have a desire to talk to one person or only a select few, then I personally use the ‘Appear Offline’ option, where you can see other contacts online, but they cannot register you as being online. Essentially, it can act as a one sided mirror (those used in police line up rooms). However, with mobile phones, it is common courtesy to reply to a text message of answer a phone call. We are technically never ‘alone’ thanks to mobile technology.

The live feed updates on Twitter and Facebook further enhance this notion of the “shared online space”. The option on some mobile phone carriers to have Facebook or Twitter applications on mobiles has further strengthens this notion of constant social communication.

Nowadays with mobile technology, we are now never really alone. There is always someone just a press of a button away. This is the social world in which we live in today.

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