Friday, April 20, 2007

Smart Mobs: Impact of the mobile

I've started reading Howard Rheingold's Smart Mobs . Some of it falls into the category of future-oggling (talking about how cool technology is, how great collective action is, etc. without giving much thorough analysis), but that's to be expected. And there are also a great many interesting ideas and discussions in the two chapters I've read so far.

Rheingold's discussion is of the mobile internet - of people keeping connected to their social networks with technology. Right now that technology is cell phones, but it doesn't have to be. He, citing others, compares the difference between the mobile internet and the solid-line internet to the difference between telephones and the telegraph. They used the same infrastructure, and at first many thought the second would be just an extension of its predecessor. But because of the way it was used, it became a technology that transformed society. Could the "mobile internet" be so influential?

There are hints of the social transformation that a mobile-web-connected society might undergo. One sociologist studying youth culture in one well-connected city discussed how the constant text-messaging among teens has changed their approach to space and time. People can be late to a party and skip entirely, but as long they are still texting, they are present. There is a virtual 'place' that really matters, and being in a particular physical place is unnecessary if they are connected to the virtual place.

That seems pretty transformative. Does it get any better? Dunno yet.

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