Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I was struck by Rheingold's discussion of American failure to be at the vanguard of mobile phone technology. His friend David Bennahum quips that asking companies like MCI or AT&T to embrace and innovate mobile Internet technologies "would be like expecting General Motors to come up with the Beatles." I certainly see Bennahum's explanation for this lopsidedness--the way social and private space are delineated between Japan and the US has a remarkable effect on how either embraces technologies, and what either expects those technologies to do for them. Rheingold writes, "Even urban Americans have immense amounts of private space that can accomodate their full social identities as well as their social networks."

Is it fair to say, then, that Americans have less to escape/transcend? It would seem that the kinds of technologies we use and where those technologies are placed with respect to our habits and movements: "all these items work for the use of private and against the use of street and public spaces." Do we pick and choose how much and where we let technologies like txting permeate our behaviors? For example, do teens more readily accept txting in order to "escape" their parents' boundaries? To negotiate their identities socially in places that cannot be overheard? But when it comes to the near total absorption of txting into pure social practice in countries like Japan and Finland, is that where Americans draw the line?

I still use capital letters and punctuation when I text. What does this say about me? I feel some discomfort when I think about people on the street staring at illuminated screens. I consider myself to be more wired than the next average person my age, but that I still feel anxious about a totalizing embrace of new technologies as they arise is perhaps telling of at least our age and culture bracket. Why is there still this lingering sense of creepiness that surrounds the thought of total mediation? Why are people who more wholeheartedly embrace technology suffer the stigma of being "weird" or "creepy" when their behaviors would be celebrated elsewhere? Perhaps we share a doctrine that still holds some spaces sacred--and we do not want to see technology invade those spaces...or are at least more reluctant to let it. What if we look at people five years younger? Ten years?

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