It’s for you.

There’s a series running in the Guardian online about the history and impact of the mobile phone. There’s even a bit by video-game theorist Steven Poole about a Motorola exhibit on the history of the mobile communications.

Most people I know who resisted the mobile phone in the past have since succumbed and acquired one, and most of them have become acolytes of the new nomadism. The biggest objections were always questionable – often described as a “leash,” as part of a trend to permanent connectedness. That, of course, supposes that previously, people were disconnected at will, which is questionable – and I think it is belied by cell phone practice (by which people either simply decide not to take a given call, or to turn the phone off). Perhaps much of the early resistance to mobility was an anxiety about nomadism itself – if the Dumezilian distinction between orders of nomadism and state apparata has any truth to it, the mobile phone is the strongest intervention against the order of the static nation. One can remain within a system of social practices and assume the appropriate stances according them without regard to physical location. While sitting in a subway train, one can adopt the tones and stance of the concerned partner, the anxious lover, the pleading subordinate, the demanding boss, all without regard to the material environment. This kind of exposure is part of another exposure – the exposure of the arbitrary, yet necessary play of position that is a feature of human society without regards to any real environment. Especially in middle-class societies where home-ownership is essential for legitimizing status, the ‘threat’ posed by the mobile phone is pretty clear.

I’m by no means the only person to wonder about the sociology of the mobile phone. As Geser puts it:

On a most general level, it can be argued that the cell phone eliminates at least some of the advantages of sedentary life styles which are responsible for the constant decline of nomadism since the inception and expansion of higher human civilization.


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