“There’s An App for That”

I couldn’t agree more with Shibuya Epiphany’s introductory quote from Tom Standage, “The Internet Untethered.”  We do think of mobile as an extension of the web.  After all, from our mobile phones, we’re looking for information just like we do on the internet as a whole.  And the creation of the internet is what enabled the cell phone to be as versatile as it is today.  The cell phone though, is not merely a medium through which we access the internet.  There are major differences in the type of content we access, in the way the information must be presented to us and our expectations with each different medium.

However, this inexorable internet/cell phone link is shaped by the generation in which I grew up. I remember life before the internet, and as previously mentioned, the internet came before the data-enabled phone.  So to me and my generation, the cell phone seems an off-shoot of the rise of the internet.  That’s why I found this quote in the article so interesting.

“Our informants liked to download new ringtones or query an i-mode site to find out if the boy they just met was astrologically compatible – but none thought of what they were doing as ‘using the Internet.’”

To the younger generation who never knew life before the internet, the internet is something you access when you’re at your computer, and your mobile connects you in other ways. Perhaps it utilizes the technology that the internet provides  but that’s where the similarity ends.  In order for us to view the mobile phone for what it truly is, we should take Hirschborn’s phrase “remote control for your life” into consideration.  This book after all, was written in 2002.  7 years later we can see and utilize all the technology that these men had envisioned but back then, it was more of an ‘epiphany’ indeed.

This ‘epiphany’ has come to me recently after I started using a blackberry. I never had a data enabled phone before so I was unable to see the cell phone as vastly different medium from the internet.

Blackberry CurveLet’s take a real-life example.  Yesterday I was running late to a meeting with Professor Simon so I emailed and texted him from my blackberry that I would be late.  After our meeting, I met a friend and we went for a hike across the road at Sleeping Giant State Park. I took some photos and immediately uploaded them to Facebook.  After the hike, I was hungry so I downloaded the yelp for mobile application and based on my current location, it gave me a list of eateries nearby based on user ratings.  It also alerted me to the fact that the restaurant didn’t accept credit cards. So using my blackberry again, I went to my bank’s mobile site, and found the nearest ATM so I didn’t have to pay those outrageous fees for out-of-network facilities.  I then called my husband actually utilizing the technology that this contraption was invented for, and drove home (I would have utilized my google maps mobile app but I have a GPS system in my car).  How on earth did I survive before I had this wonderful tool?

While Rheingold’s chapter is mostly concerned with the way adolescents interact with mobile technology and research on how it’s shaping peer groups, relationships and social communication, I think looking at only these early adopters is a mistake.  Since 2002, mobile technology, especially in the United States, has increased dramatically and texting is only a small portion of it.  We’re all familiar with the ubiquitous motto, “There’s an app for that” and I think that really says it all.  In the near future, our mobile phones will be able to give us any type of information we could conceivably need, on the fly.  Not sitting in front of our desktop or lugging around our laptop.  The social connectivity aspect is important but what is truly earth shattering is the accessibility of all that information, literally at our fingertips.

  1. KTD4vp says:

    I think that you touch on some very important points here. The mobile phone has given us information at our fingertips. As opposed to the Internet that you access from your computer, it is mobile. Therefore, if we need information in a jam such as where to eat or which subway to take we can find it out instantly The other difference as noted, is applications. By utilizing applications, you don’t need to connect directly to the website, but rather a simple less complex version of the website.

    I have to disagree with you on this one though: “the internet is something you access when you’re at your computer, and your mobile connects you in other ways.” The mobile connects you in the SAME ways as the Internet as it utilizes the same technology (which you state). However, you also state that’s where the similarities end. I fail to see many differences other than that the cell phone is mobile so you can access it from anywhere.

    Let’s take a look at what you did during the day and how it could be done on the Internet on a computer:

    You emailed Phil Simmon- This could be done through gmail not just your blackberry email address
    You researched restaurants on Yelp- I did the same sitting at my computer for lunch yesterday
    You called your husband- You could do the same at your computer using Skype.

  2. Kimberly D. says:

    I agree with most of your post too, except I don’t think the younger generation does not think they are using the internet while on mobile. Do they just think it happens magically? I think they understand it is the internet but they do not distinguish between the computer based internet and the mobile one.

    I also feel completely behind the times since I still do not have a data enhanced phone. For several reasons. Am I at a disadvantage since I refuse to switch cell companies to get the iPhone? I don’t think so. Many would disagree. I can just check my facebook when I get home.

  3. Annie says:

    Great real-life example of how your phone can be used for a variety of functions. I do not have a Blackberry but I cannot imagine leaving home without my cell-phone because what happens if my car breaks down…how am I suppose to contact Triple AAA for roadside assistance? How can I contact a friend and tell her or him that I am stuck in traffic and will be late for dinner? Even my basic cell-phone has come to be an essential part of my daily routine. I make sure that I have my keys, my wallet, and my cell-phone in my purse at all times. I can’t leave home without it!

  1. There are no trackbacks for this post yet.

Leave a Reply