Posted by: lunacouture | March 31, 2008

Mobile Technology and the Web

Week 9 Reading Response

 Summary & Analysis 

The second part of Smart Mobs by Howard Rheingold discusses the radical way communication is changing society.  The book concludes that studying how mobile phones evolve and impact society over time will determine how to regulate this type of technology.   The book also suggests that in the near future there will be a revolution, in which mobile phones become a powerful device.   

The book suggests that less economically developed countries rely on text messaging for communication.  A possible explanation for this is that less wealthy nations may have service providers that make calling expensive. Also, people may have to work longer hours and not have time to engage in phone conversations.  The book also hints that countries such as Japan have limited living space, as there are numerous people residing in confined spaces.  When people live close to each other, there is not much privacy.  The SMS solves this problem by making communication more private.   

The book gives the example of how people in the Philippines used their cell phones to create an uprising against Estrada.  It’s interesting that cell phones are used to coordinate such powerful events.  Mobile communication has developed to the extent it is able to mobilize thousands of people.  This shows society is now using mobile devices as tools. The wikinomics blog entry on March 26 suggests that the advancement of cell phones is so great that it poses a threat to the internet. With the fact that people are receiving more and more services via mobile devices, computers and the internet are soon likely to change significantly.  

The book also makes the point that cell phones can be used as a means of collecting and producing media.  Photojournalism is in decline because many images can be easily shot using a mobile phone, by being in the right place at the right time. As long as the images capture the moment, audiences still see what they want without needing professional journalists to do the job.  News can be diffused quickly by sending images and videos via mobile phones.  Sometimes grassroots journalism is more interesting to audiences than professional journalism because it is more spontaneous.     

Traditional journalism is also in decline.  This week’s Wikinomics blog showed a short portion of a Simpson episode, in which the character mocks a journalist telling him that his “medium is dying”. The fact this has entered a satirical pop culture show such as the Simpsons, indicates people are very much aware of the changing trend. The PaidContent Blog referred to this issue on March 28 by stating that 2007 suffered the greatest loss in revenues for newspapers. Online revenues have increased for media firms, presenting an interesting alternative for the newspaper industry.  It’s no secret the newspaper industry was hit hard by the economic recession.  Overall, Losses have been significant and news industries are desperately searching for alternatives to compensate for lost revenue.  

The Universal Point of Contact (UPOC) method mentioned in the book shows that people can work together to communicate news to each other.  An example of UPOC would be passing the word along via mobile devices when citing celebrities in certain venues. However, UPOC also indicates that privacy has been lost and we have no hopes of gaining it back as technology develops.  An announcement in the Washington Post Technology blog on March 29 announced that Verizon Wireless will establish a program permitting people to know where their friends are all the time.  Talk about having no more privacy!  People will know thanks to this service too much information about others and their whereabouts.  However, this circumstance may be beneficial when people are in need of assistance.  

One point made by the book is that people often relate to technology as if it were an actual person.  Rheingold reminds readers that it’s important to remember we are dealing with machines.  The personification of technology is something most people are guilty of.  It’s very difficult to remember that the intermediary aiding you with your communication process is actually not a person, but a computer.  People grow so dependent on technology they get lazy and stop working out the processes for themselves. This in turn causes them to get frustrated with a machine when something goes wrong.    

The Italian researcher Fortunati mentioned in the book talks about the privatization of communication leading to a demise of public communication. Fortunati suggests that people will become less social in the long run.  As an Italian, I can understand where Fortunati is coming from.  Italian culture used to strive on being a friendly, open society with people talking to you in public spaces.  Today the idea of public communication in Italy has basically disappeared, as there is much diffidence amongst people. They are reluctant to talk and have become less social. The newer generations especially have definitely lost a lot of the personal touch that used to make Italy unique. The same can be said for several other European countries.  

Another book read for this week was Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything by Tapscott and Williams.  The first chapter of the book mentions that people are creating media and working together using technology as their medium.  Out of these ideas emerges the notion of how technology brings together people of different ethnicities, comparing the phenomenon to the Italian Renaissance.  The book alludes to the idea of sharing and open source technology, as was discussed by prof. Mele in his lecture this week.   

The book talks a lot about sharing and open technology programs on the web.  The authors explain open source technology on the web, meaning that everyone can partake into the contribution of knowledge. Examples of this type of technology include del.icio.us and wikipedia that are free and include contributions by anyone.  The PaidContent Blog just announced on March 28 that the Sloan Foundation donated $3 million dollars to continue to enhance wikipedia’s success.  Media collaboration efforts have helped businesses grow and diffuse around the world, as well as overcome language or geographic barriers.   

Younger generations are so media savvy now that they create a lot of the content on the web.  Today’s younger generation will be the one coming up with new innovations in the future. An article in John Battelle’s search blog on March 10 expressed that you cannot compare the content on the web to what you would use for traditional academic standards.  This defeats the purpose of open source technology and stunts its growth. The Wikinomics blog on March 29 shows a web design with complex interactions of several Microsoft applications surrounded by smiley faces.  The idea is that people are satisfied when they can edit material on the web.  I think it’s a representational design of how society feels about open source technology that can be channled toward the greater good.   

Many have understood the economics of the web and learned to use it for lucrative purposes. Programs like Apples have done well by exploiting the frenzy to protect copyrights following the post Napster scandal.  However, iTunes are now becoming something of a two way sword.  They protect copyrights, but tend to turn off consumers with their policies.  Producers can’t ignore the fact that the digital age has happened and that music will never be purchased the same way it was years ago. Right now people need to work on finding a balance between protecting copyrights and not imposing too many restrictions on people about what they download.   This is proving to be a real challenge and it may be sometimes before a general consensus is reached.  

Synthesis 

The idea of being able to diffuse information and capture it merely by the click of a cell phone parallels with Dan Gillmor’s book, We the Media.  In his book, Gillmor emphasizes that people in this generation are already starting to create media content and posting it online.  He also highlights the importance of grassroots journalism and how this movement is posing a real threat to traditional media.  Both these principles were also discussed in Wikinomics and Smart Mobs, outlining the same basic principles.   

Smart Mobs contains elements that are similar to John Battelle’s book, The Search, in that both authors argue that mobile technology will become much more complex. Smart Mobs takes this a step further and suggests that mobile phones will be used both as a search tool and tracking device.  It seems like people are constantly searching for something that will only advance their searches and produce better results.  This was the principle Battelle discussed in his book, and a reflection of the same ideas can be seen in Smart Mobs.   

Israel and Scoble pointed out in Naked Conversations the idea of the web being one big blogosphere, without being limited by political geography. Both Smart Mobs and Wikinomics reaffirm this idea with their books when discussing the importance of open source technology.  All three of these books encourage open conversations and public input throughout the internet. The most amazing thing is that the web leaves room for error because chances are that mistakes will be corrected on open source applications.  Also, it is easier to discuss a difference of opinion when the web acts as an intermediary between people.  I think the bigger message that each of these books are trying to convey is that each person can contribute to society in someway through the web.   People should take advantage of this luxury and take part in the diffusion of new ideas throughout the world. 

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Responses

  1. Excellent post, print publishing is following the new technology mediums to circulate the publications. Companies like http://www.pressmart.net helping the print publishers to circulate their publications through web, blog, social media, Pod cast, RSS, mobile, etc… I think this is the good idea to increase the circulations.


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