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Technological Ecology of Mobile Media
Jamais Cascio, 9 Sep 04

WorldChanging friend Howard Rheingold has a brief but extremely thought-provoking essay in today's The Feature entitled Ecologizing Mobile Media. He takes Neil Postman's "Ten Principles of Technology" and applies them to mobile communication devices. The results are sure to trigger quite a bit of discussion, and undoubtedly some new ideas about how we integrate mobile devices into our lives.

Here are some choice excerpts, but go read the whole thing:

2. The advantages and disadvantages of new technologies are never distributed evenly among the population. This means that every new technology benefits some and harms others.

With close to half a billion mobile phones sold just this year, I suspect the great divide is not going to remain the one between those who can afford access to phones and those who can't. Increasingly, the advantages are available differentially to those who know what those advantages are and how to make use of them -- the divide between the "know- how" and "don't-know-how" populations. It's a matter of literacy.

[...]

5. Technological change is not additive; it is ecological. A new technology does not merely add something; it changes everything.

More people can organize collective action with people they weren't able to organize before, at times and in places they weren't able to organize before. The ways cities are used, political demonstrations are organized, entertainment is scheduled and daily life is coordinated are already changing.

[...]

7. Because of the accessibility and speed in which information is encoded, different technologies have different political biases.

In Seattle, Manila, Seoul and Madrid, we've seen regimes toppled and Presidents elected because texting enables spontaneously self-organized demonstrations and get-out-the-vote. If broadcast media is biased toward centralized control, mobile media are biased toward decentralized out-of-control.

These ten principles (from The End of Education) provide a useful metric for thinking about the impact of technology, whatever your feelings about Postman (whenever I read his stuff, I want to throw the book across the room, then scurry after it to pick it up and keep reading). Howard does a great job here of generating tentative answers to the ten questions, and the comment section in The Feature already has some interesting follow-up.

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