Mobile device companies shaping social movements

The role that mobile devices has played in current social movements is fascinating to me.  I feel that I take the power of my cell phone for granted.  I am lucky to be able to communicate with my friends all over the world, but I had never really considered it as a tool for social change.  After learning more about the events in Egypt and other places in the world I do think it’s important for people to remember that these weren’t the sole forms of organizing.  I think that there is still much to be said for the old ‘grapevine’.  In my home town I know this still functions rather well, and even in larger cities, within communities I think in many ways it can be even more effective than technology.

My biggest concern is that social movements begin to rely on Technology to the point that they can be shaped and influenced by the companies, or organization that controls this.  If they know there is going to be a large demonstration, what stops a carrier from stopping service, or a government from setting up signal blockers in a vicinity.  I’m very curious to see how future events play out, and if my concerns about reliance on technology providers could be valid.

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2 Comments to “Mobile device companies shaping social movements”

  1. Yes, I do agree that the role of mobile devices are actually fascinating for tasking part of our social movement, but I disagree with the fact that it is not a tool of social change because I do think it is. We are fortunate to be able to connect with our friends in a quicker way, but do you think that we lose our sense of appreciation of friendship sometimes? What I mean by that is I remember the old days where I would write letters to my friends. I would take the time to sit down and write them about how I am doing and what is new with me. I would take the time to print some copies of pictures and send it to them as well. But now, we can just simply take a picture with our IPhone and upload it in Instagram or send it as an attachment in an email and say “here I am at the San Francisco Bridge.” The message would be simple as that and it would be sent within minutes. Writing letters to each other actually builds up anxiety and for some reason, feeling that letter in your hands makes you feel more of a special person than getting an email that you cannot get in your hands? We change our social skills by depending on our mobile phones. We depend on our connectedness with our friends by our phones. Instead of stopping by a friend’s house to see if he/she is home, I would text or call my friend to check if he/she is home. I could still be in my pajamas, sitting at home, texting my friend to check. That reduces my chances of social skills. Wouldn’t that be considered as a tool of social change?
    But yes, I am also curious about what the future holds for technology. What if one day, technology decides to go kaput on us. We would not be able to access our banking online, update our statuses, check our stock markets online, or even try to IM someone. I think the world would go crazy if technology just shuts down on us. We depend on it so much.

  2. I think one of the biggest roles mobiles are playing is not only about bringing the type of social change in terms of our social interrelatedness that Renca has alluded to, but also how mobiles have altered opportunities to communicate in places where there previously were none. Mobile phones in international development has become the newest fad in the development community because it can alter the socioeconomic opportunities by bringing information to rural places where no fixed telephone line or broadband Internet infrastructure exists. They can bring the most up to date market information to a impoverished farmer living in India, update a pregnant Ghanaian women on prenatal healthcare, or allow individuals to report crimes of corruption via SMS. One of the biggest problems in addition to a unreliable electricity source is, in my eyes, the power of these telecommunications companies that you referred to. Most governments around the world have heavy investments in their country’s telecommunications companies and they have the power to allot the licenses for mobiles to run out to the companies. So who is the influx of mobiles really giving opportunity to: the people, or those already in power?

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