Sunday, November 1, 2009

Mobile Technology

Both Castell’s and Juris’ articles provided comprehensive outlines to the increasing significance of cell phones and mobile technology, specifically in political participation. These new forms of media promote an increase in “social engagement” and democracy. While at times politics has seemed a bureaucratic matter, especially in less democratic countries, it is encouraging that civil society can be involved and influential through the media. As is the case in the Philippines, text messaging provides a medium through which civil society can organize to create or resist change, creating a social movement in the political arena. Thus, through media, society can mobilize and use direct action for global justice. This demonstrates the power of mobile technology, a higher level of global interconnectedness, and perhaps a benefit of globalization.

Castell’s account of Berlusconi’s personal text messages, and the infusion of government into the personal sphere, reminds me of the DCAlert texts I receive. Whenever there is a traffic accident, predicted severe weather, or other emergency, DCAlert tells me so. The fact that governments and agencies use texting to reach a broad audience, demonstrate its value in sending quick messages that do not require the same preparation as other media forms. Texting is very effective in this regard because it can reach people on the move, who aren’t seated by a TV or radio.

But, as cell phones become increasingly ubiquitous and mobilizing, we must also consider the consequences that emerge. Castells notes the devastating bombings in Madrid were set off by a cell phone. And, because almost everyone can receive texts, are we also becoming increasingly vulnerable to other forms of terrorism, including phone viruses?


  1. Hey, Zoe! I'm interested in your response to Berlusconi's text messages. You equate them to the DCAlert texts, which seem pretty helpful, but when I read that section it made me think more of a telemarketer phone call during dinner, or a denial-of-service attack. His text messages seemed sneaky and kind of controlling to me, like a deliberate attempt to prevent the opposition from mobilizing against him. But I've always felt Berlusconi was a bit shady anyway, so I'm not an unbiased observer here. At any rate, your last comment on vulnerability struck a cord too, particularly in light of the comment (I can't remember from which reading, and I don't have them to hand, so perhaps somebody else could weigh in and remind me) that periods of high traffic (in response to political movements) have been known to overwhelm the grid. On September 11, it took me hours to reach my father on a landline. I doubt that our current cellular infrastructure is equipped to handle the kind of usage surge the writers describe in these readings, and it would be very easy for a terrorist attack to overwhelm the system. I wonder if there are any stats on comparative vulnerabilities of the two systems?

  2. Hey Zoe,
    I wanted to comment on the cons of modern mobile technology, specifically texting. One of the negatives consequences of text messaging the wasn't really discussed in our readings, but has been making the news lately is the phenomenon of "sexting," which most take the stance of being an exploitive and potentially damaging phenomenon sweeping through youth culture right now. Although this type of sexually explicit communication has been going on for generations, the permanence of writing these types of conversations to people and the ability for the messages to be dispersed to an unlimited number of contacts in an instant make "sexting" a serious threat to the social, physical and emotional well-being of young people. I think that many people still don't realize the enduring nature of sending illicit pictures or messages via text or any one of the new ICTs and their potential to pop back into public circulation at the very worst moments. The long term consequences are barely considered in these situations, especially by young people.

  3. Yes, we are becoming increasingly vulnerable to many negatives of texting. Honestly, we become more vulnerable everyday with the increasing technological creations. This week's readings provided us with some successful example of cellular phone technology. The protest in Filipino was classic because it showed how technology was used to expose political corruption and exercise democratic practices.

    Interestingly, my friend and I were thinking back to the "good ol days." We were remembering days of cell phones but NO TEXTING! We thought about the "game" that we played on our personal desktop computers--PAINTBRUSH AND SOLITAIRE! The conversation created many laughs and smiles, but then we thought: "When will we say enough is enough?" When will technology reach a level of satisfaction. Sad to say, it will not ever because it is almost blasphemous to think of life without internet and texting capabilities. To sum it all up, the world has decided to take the good with the bad and hope for the best. Transnationalism (the word that I prefer thanks to the readings) has it pros and cons, and I highly doubt that any of the parties involved are willing to sacrifice texting on behalf of national security...sad isn't it?? Or is it? *Just my thoughts*