Smartphones as Tools for Cultural Change
Man made materials, inventions, scientific and technological discoveries have shaped human culture. Mankind and society have been shaped by the inventions of people who strive to improve modern life, and accordingly innovations mold the notions of how society’s work. According to Muzaffar Iqbal, “modern technologies are made possible by modern science which originated in the seventeenth century and which opened new vistas for humanity to use—or exploit” (130). Even before the emergence of modern science, the invention such as the wheel and the plow, which allowed for easier transportation and an efficiency for agricultural production respectively, modified modes of living stemmed from, “certain inherent needs of a particular mode of living” (ibid 130). It may be argued that the current emergence of the personal smartphone has a transforming effect of western culture. As the smartphone owes its emergence to the invention of the internet in the 1960s, the invention of the personal computer, and the breakthrough of electricity, it is notable that the smartphone was derived from other innovations which promoted other technological advancements.
According to the Pew Research Center, eighty-six percent of individuals aged between eighteen and twenty-nine own a smartphone, and sixty-eight percent of adults own one as well (Weise). Mobile technology is projected to grow in the coming years, stating that about 70 percent of the world population will own a smartphone by the year 2020, according to a report conducted by Ericsson, a world leader in telecommunications technology (“Ericsson Mobility Report”). Smartphones have constructed how individuals socialize and go about their day to day life, consequently a cultural shift emerged since the introduction of the smartphone. Information has now evolved to become quickly produced and transmitted at an up to speed rate thanks to the smartphone. Since the smartphone serves as a platform for a wide range of possible functionalities, it is important to ask how these functionalities change individual lives, and the culture of the individual?
The smartphone still serves as a communication device, much like the regular telephone, offering the function of texting and phone calls; however, the smartphone has allowed communication technologies to change. Applications such as social media landscapes have allowed users to immerse themselves in virtual communities, where people can connect and share information, ideas, and other content. Amongst social media, current smartphones support video telecommunication services, allowing individuals to communicate in real time through video signals. Due to these new forms of communication “for the first time, the amount of data sent with mobile devices exceeded the sum of transmitted voice data” (Vanderbilt). It is apparent that smartphones have changed the way in which people socialize, moreover smartphones have changed the notion of socializing through these technological advancements which allowed for both the emergence and diminishment of communication means. Because humans are profoundly social beings, it is important to be aware how objects constitute how we socialize, and how these objects create norms for communication, interaction, and socialization.
Another application for the smartphone is the quick accessibility of the internet; albeit the internet revolutionizing the digital age in itself, the newfound accessibility allows users to have instantaneous access to information, data, and other resources provided by the internet. The internet has allowed users to obtain real time information, as opposed to the slower means of obtaining news through the television,or the newspaper. Even Social media, powered by the internet, has transformed to become people’s form of news reception, allowing for constant and instantaneous broadcasting of current events. According to Berry College professor Matt J Duffy, “the introduction of smartphones represents a revolution in the ability of a journalist — and any other observer — to gather information and quickly disseminate it” (Duffy). A prominent example is the “unrest in the Middle East in 2011, known as the Arab Spring, […] fueled in part by the ability of protesters to take high-quality photos and videos on smartphones and upload them to Facebook and Twitter without use of a computer” (Lellouche).
Lastly, smartphones have integrated entertainment platforms such as movie streaming services, phone games, and other various applications, redefining the entertainment market. The evolution of Netflix and its consequent success through the introduction of on demand video streaming through the internet occurred during the same time smartphone sales began to grow. Currently, Netflix is the second top grossing application in the apple store, the music streaming service Pandora and Spotify ranks 3rd and 9th respectively, and the other top ten grossing applications are phone games.
Smartphones have grown to become commonplace in western culture, shaping the entertainment industry, how individuals communicate amongst themselves, and how people receive information. It is important to be aware how a technological advancement such as the smartphone, can have an empowering effect on how individuals go about their day, and how a technological advancement such as the smartphone can shape a society.
Duffy, Matt J., “Smartphones in the Arab Spring.” IPI Report, summer 2011, International Press Institute. Web. 4 Feb. 2017.
Ericsson Mobility Report: On The Pulse Of The Networked Society. Rep. Stockholm: Ericsson, (2015). web.
Iqbal, Muzaffar. “In The Image Of The Machine.” Islam & Science (17037603) 8.2 (2010): 129-142. Academic Search Premier. Web. 4 Feb. 2017.
Lellouche, Michele. “Smartphones.” St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, edited by Thomas Riggs, 2nd ed., vol. 4, St. James Press, 2013, pp. 598-599. Gale Virtual Reference Library
Weise, Elizabeth. “Smartphones reaching saturation among Millennials.” USA Today. N.p., 29 Oct. 2015. Web. 4 Feb. 2017.
Vanderbilt, Tom. “The Call Of The Future.” Wilson Quarterly 36.2 (2012): 52-56. Academic Search Premier. Web. 5 Feb. 2017.