A Japanese primate researcher announced the other day that mobile phones are turning Japanese youth into apes. Or at least that’s the sensational way to put it.
“Parents let their kids go out because they think they’re only a phone call away. And even if the kid doesn’t come home, parents don’t call them because they believe the child’s mobile phone offers them an unbreakable link…”
What does this have to do with apes? These liberated kids are evidently losing a sense of home, and aren’t distinguishing between private and public space. Chimps in the wild also tend to walk around in groups, eat wherever they get hungry, and rest wherever and whenever. I don’t think this phenomena is strictly Japanese. I often see tribes of kids walking around the town in which I live. They hang out at the local cafe, ice cream shop, and sometimes, just sometimes, the library. One thing that so fascinating about their behavior when they’re in the library is that they often tell us what they want out of a library. They come in packs, and they come for a space in which to collaborate. Group work is huge. Use of our resources is secondary. If kids act this way in this area, they very well may act this way in your area. We all have the task of thinking how we can get these people into the library more often.
This article is interesting for what it says, but it is also interesting because it doesn’t even say what these kids are doing with their phones. We know that texting, IM, and ringtones, let alone voice communication, have had a huge impact on people’s behavior, but phones are going to get even more interesting .
Take for instance Sprint/Nextel’s new walkie-talkie picture sending service. It combines the ultra-annoying bleeping and blooping instant talk found on some phones, and picture sharing on phones. It allows users to send cameraphone pics instantly, look at them simultaneously, and discuss them all the while. This real-time interaction and collaboration seems really web-like to me, which is great to see in a portable device. This, however, has the advantage that it can be used anywhere.
Nokia has developed a peer-to-peer network for mobile phones, and they are looking to develop support for the sharing of mp3 files. This is another activity leaving the desktop and coming to the little computers we carry around.
Speaking of mp3s, Japan’s largest cell phone provider, DoCoMo, is buying Tower Records. I wonder how long it will be until we see direct to cell phone downloading from the iTunes Music Store.
A bit closer to home we see Google Local for Mobile which is “downloadable application that lets you view maps and satellite imagery, find local businesses, and get driving directions on your phone.” In English, this means, Google Local for Mobile is “the first step in getting location-based advertising on your phone.” Pondering primate reminds us that they’ve been keeping track of all the text messages sent to GOOGL and are compiling a database to see what people search for on their phones. “Google knows what services were used most and where they were requested.”
Technology like this makes the development of ubiqutous computing easy to imagine.