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Not Just a Phone

An SDSU professor recently published a compendium examining the history and the future of mobile media.
Mobile Media at work
Mobile Media at work

When looking at a smartphone or a tablet it can be easy to forget that computers once occupied full rooms and were less capable than what now fits in a pocket.

That concept of the evolving world of mobile media technology is captured in The Mobile Media Reader, a collection of essays compiled by Noah Arceneaux, San Diego State University journalism and mass media professor.

The reader is available online and covers the evolution of mobile media, from its humble origins in radio into smart phones, tablets and portable gaming systems.

Origins

Arceneaux organized The Mobile Media Reader with the history of technology in mind.

“If you had asked people fifty years ago what they predicted for technology in the future, they may have guessed flying cars, but probably not the ‘mobilization’ of technology and entertainment,” said Arceneaux. “I don’t think we could have envisioned even a decade ago how commonplace it would be for so many to have a device in their pocket that could call, text, record video, take photos, search the web, play games and everything else they can do.”

Tech and culture

As previous media technologies like radio and television have effectively reshaped American culture, mobile technology is having the same effect.   From the prevalence of text language like "LOL" and "BRB" to the creation of virtual communities, new technology is changing the way people communicate and interact.

“The intersection of technology and culture is a complicated thing,” Arceneaux said.  “However, you can use the past as a case study for the events of today.”

A more global outlook

Arceneaux also hopes this book will help to eliminate the use of the term ‘cell phone’, for two reasons.  First, he said, it is very American-specific.  Outside of the U.S., they’re usually called mobiles or something similar.  Second, they’re not merely phones.  From iPhones to Androids, tablets to portable gaming systems, they serve a number of purposes outside just calling people.

Additionally, availability to mobile technology is advancing to a large degree in the developing world, he said.  A portion of the book is devoted to Kurdish identity in Turkey through mobile “apps,” and aspects of the success of the Arab Spring can be traced to Twitter and other social media, largely used through mobile communication.

The Mobile Media Reader is a follow-up companion work to a book Arceneaux co-authored, titled The Cell Phone Reader.

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