?: [iDC] mobile phones and the networked posse

Yukihiko YOSHIDA yukihiko at s6.dion.ne.jp
Sun Jul 9 09:51:22 EDT 2006

Dear Mark and list,

I worked for Urban Typhoon Conference at Shimokitazawa and organizied the
following project with cellor phone.
Sode Mapping Project: Sode is Japanese and that means Wing in stage

Project's Blog in Japanese:
You can see English one with auto-translation system.

Warmest Regards,
Yukihiko YOSHIDA

???: idc-bounces at bbs.thing.net [mailto:idc-bounces at bbs.thing.net] ??? Mark
????: 2006?7?9? 13:47
??: IDC list
??: [iDC] mobile phones and the networked posse

To what extent are our concerns regarding the Networked Public Sphere tied
to a specific historical phase (or regional condition) of the Internet? How
are these concerns problematized by way mobile communications and wireless
networks have evolved since the mid-late 90s?

I'm writing this from Tokyo where I'm with a group of architecture students
studying the city as part of a study abroad program. One difference
noticeable here is the way people access and use the Internet. Free wifi
access is hard to find, and virtually no one is seen working on a laptop in
cafes. Internet cafes here are cavernous spaces normally one or two floors
below ground, consisting of stalls containing a desktop computer occupied by
someone playing World of Warcraft, sofas for couples playing PSP at
dedicated media stations, and racks of comics for casual reading. They also
appear to be popular places for napping.

As Mimi Ito notes in "Personal, Portable, Pedestrian: Mobile Phones in
Japanese Life" (MIT, 2005), a majority of Japanese access the Internet via
their mobile phones, rather than a laptop or desktop computer. The Japanese
word for mobile phone – keitai, roughly translated as "something you carry
with you" – provides a clue to its role within Japanese culture. In contrast
to “the cellular phone” of the US (defined by technical infrastructure), and
“the mobile” of the UK (defined by the untethering from fixed location), the
Japanese term “keitai” references a somewhat different set of parameters.

Here, the keitai is truly ubiquitous. Tokyo’s Shibuya crossing, for example,
claims the highest density of mobile phone use in the world.  
An overwhelming majority of the Japanese population own phones equipped with
digital still and video cameras, SMS (Short Message
Service) messaging, wireless email and Internet browsers. Mobile phones have
replaced computers as the de facto e-mail terminal of choice for many
Japanese who are not in technology, finance, engineering or other
computer-intensive occupations. This is particularly true for the young, who
most clearly prefer handsets to laptops. These devices are used less often
for voice communications than for asynchronic exchanges of text and images
between close circles of friends or associates. These exchanges – often
conducted throughout diverse urban spaces such as a subway car, a street
corner, a shopping mall, or a grocery store aisle – interject new forms of
privacy within otherwise "public" domains. Kenichi Fujimoto refers to the
devices themselves as "territory machines" capable of transforming any space
-- a subway train into "(one's) own room and personal paradise." While late
20th century (and predominately
western) notions of the Internet promised to unlock us from the limitations
of offline relationships and geographic constraints, keitai space flows in
and out of ordinary, everyday activities, constantly shifting between
virtual and physical realms. Here, "the"  
Networked Public Sphere is elided by a multiplicity of "networked posses" -
small groups of close acquaintances rather than a distributed "mass" of
virtual actors.

mark shepard

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