Genevieve on mobile culture

Genevieve Bell is one of my favorite researchers. Today, she spoke at Stanford and you can listen to her talk.

In June of 2002, Malaysian newsstands carried the latest issue of “Mobile Stuff” — a magazine geared toward Malaysia” growing population of mobile phone subscribers. On the cover, two young Malay men in clothing that suggests more LA hood and less KL suburbs, hold out their mobile phones to the camera beneath the banner headline “Real Men Use SMS.” Six months later, billboards in Shanghai carried the image of a woman’s shapely calves and ankles, bound with black patent leather ankle straps; positioned beneath one strap is her mobile phone. Beyond their utility as a technology of information exchange, mobile phones it appears have inserted themselves into the cultural fabric of societies across the world. Using comparative cases from Asia, this talk explores how mobile phones, and their various accoutrements, have become key symbolic markers of identities. I argue that mobile phones, rather than facilitating an idealized universal communication, actually contribute to the re-inscription of local particularity and cultural difference as dimensions of a larger political economy of value. Making sense of the different ways that cell phones are articulating with daily life provides an important perspective on the ways in which cultural patterns affect technology use.

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