I have developed what I have come to understand as an intimate relationship with my mobile phone, which is to say that I have some difficulty imagining life in the world without it. This has its roots in the fact that mobile phone availability (the fact that I will be there to answer the phone) is now an expectation among individuals with whom I have a real-world connection. In other words, I believe people would worry if I went without my phone.
I have neither special fondness nor dislike for the particular phone that I own: It is a small black phone with limited capabilities. Rather, it is what the phone represents — connection to those who may call me — that I worry to be without. In this way, I recognize the phone as valuable because of its potential as a tool for communication.
I’m a researcher, so I decided to research this situation. To measure potential versus actual usage, I examined my mobile phone call history over the past 10 days: I had conversations with my partner, my mother, my father, my best friend; there also was an unanswered incoming call from an unrecognizable number. These findings strongly suggest that the role of mobile-phone-based calls in my communicative life is primarily to keep in touch with family and close friends.
I found my relatively infrequent usage to be surprising. This finding encourages me to further examine whether, and to what extent, the mobile phone actually does serve a useful communicative purpose in my life. While communication with people close to me should not at all be discounted, there may be other ways to engage in these communications.
For example, internet-enabled video conferencing could enrich my communicative interactions, by providing both voice and image. While there may be barriers to entry en masse for online video conference, considering the relatively small circle of people with whom I regularly interact, it is not impossible for me to imagine asking them to purchase (or perhaps purchasing for them) the required software and hardware to make these more rich communicative interactions possible.
I recognize that a 10-day sample of call usage on my mobile phone provides only a slice of the overall picture, but it is a thought-provoking launching pad for the consideration of the broader role of communication technologies in everyday life.
Peter Joseph Gloviczki
Assistant professor of communications