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Rheingold: Does Mobile Telephony Disconnect People from City Life?
Jon Lebkowsky, 22 Jan 04

Pervasive mobile voice and data communications are the edge of coolness for many, but it's important to step back and think critically about any emerging technology, and this one may have a downside. Ideally we can envision something like the noösphere ("sphere of human thought") of Vernadsky and Teilhard de Chardin, but even as we learn the chords and lyrics for Kumbaya, we should explore whether global connectedness has a down side. In his latest piece, Does Mobile Telephony Disconnect People from City Life?, Howard Rheingold notes Paul Goldberger's "Disconnected Urbanism," a consideration of the cellphone's impact on our sense of place. Rheingold notes sympathetically Goldberger's contention that "the cell phone has changed our sense of place more than faxes and computers and e-mail because of its ability to intrude into every moment in every possible place. When you walk along the street and talk on a cell phone, you are not on the street sharing the communal experience of urban life. You are in some other place--someplace at the other end of your phone conversation. You are there, but you are not there." However he also cites a study (Mizuko Ito and Daisuke Okabe, "Technosocial Situations: Emergent Structurings of Mobile Email Use". In Mizuko Ito, Daisuke Okabe, and Misa Matsuda Eds., Personal, Portable, Pedestrian: Mobile Phones in Japanese Life, MIT Press: Forthcoming) suggesting that it's not that simple: "To say that mobile phones univocally cross boundaries, heighten accessibility, and fragment social life is to see only one side of the dynamic social reconfigurations heralded by mobile communications. Mobile phones create new kinds of bounded places that merge the infrastructures of geography and technology, as well as technosocial practices that merge technical standards and social norms." Howard leaves the question of the cellphone's impact open (registered members of The Feature can leave comments there, though we'd also like to see a discussion in comments here.)

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I don't think there will be a disconnect from city life - but I do think that there will be a change in city life itself.

Loved to see someone use noƶsphere as well. :)

Posted by: Taran on 22 Jan 04



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