Wednesday 3 January 2007

The mobile phone and our society

Mobile alarm so alarming

When I return home I need to check if my apartment block has a corporate fire alarm apart from ones people install in their homes. It so happened that one night there was this shrill sound going off at intervals of 5 minutes and both my friend and I wondered where the sound was from.

I thought, it was a fire alarm and my ears perked visited adjacent floors but could not make out where the sound came from, very much like searching for a cricket that strays into a house, the shrill sound they make is just never directional.

Eventually, we found it was my friend’s mobile phone setting off a reminder alarm for him to take his pills, yes, a mobile phone that had screwed up its alarm tone and ended up with a fire alarm tune.

This exemplified that problem and the technology of mobile phones, they are no more the clunky bricks which had traditional phone rings and were the training weights of the yuppies of old.

Wring tones or ring that neck

Ring tones are big business now, phone play back all sorts of sounds, but the social re-engineering of these devices has even adults choosing the most dastardly tones which playback with eardrum piercing volumes when some unassuming acquaintance calls.

Thankfully, mobile phones are not allowed on flights, we the science of keeping them switched off is suspect, but the idea is good. Some trains also have mobile-free zones, but how do you deal with someone who has just bought a phone and is trying out every tone in a quiet train? Some people!

Happy slapping joyriders

Then in 2000, mobile phones were equipped with digital cameras which have now improved with more accessories, greater resolution, Carl Zeiss lenses, using some Multimedia communications mode to transfer the pictures.

They also allowed for motion picture recording which in itself is benign till another social consequence resulted in kids in the UK going out to mug, molest and beat up people in what became called “Happy Slapping”.

Sometimes, I wonder about the words we use for social misconduct in England. Happy Slapping is no happy event for the victim, more for the criminal nor is “Joy-riding” increasing the joy of a victim when the criminal has stolen your car and written it off in an inconsiderate adrenalin-rush chase.

One such happy slapping lead to the death of a victim and the recording became evidence of the crime which lead to convictions, but why does this have to happen at all.

Beyond propaganda and to the truth

These mobile phone cameras came into their own when the officially sanctioned, edited, doctored and propagandist silent recording of Saddam’s execution was trumped by a live vision/sound travesty of shame – yes, the uncensored democracy of photo- and movie- journalism where the participants are the public has arrived – we are the Time Person of the Year 2006 – even professionals cannot retain the scoop on any news event that occurs in the dimensions of time and space.

This is the new concealed weapon set to record anything without your knowledge and ready to be published on YouTube or some other less reputable site, you have to smile all the time, because you might be on camera and if you do misbehave, never become a celebrity, maybe there is a cautionary element to restoring social graces with this development, I would not know as reality television now helps to depict the worst of the Homo sapiens-sapiens species.

Multifunction life tool

As if that was not enough, they added radio and music playback of MP3s, that is fine, then you uploaded your music, put on your headphones and carried your entertainment with you on your mobile phone.

Games, Internet surfing, email and your mobile phone is a comprehensive Personal Digital Assistant, your whole life is stored on the device which you rarely backup and just imagine it gets lost and you are completely bereft of your contact to the world, you become a castaway island in a sea of sharks.

However, the death knell of the filofax has not been completely sounded, there are people who have backed up their data on paper despite the fact that some mobile operators now allow you to backup your data to their servers, a good way to expose your life, I would say.

Mobile phone ghetto blaster

Anyway, it is now commonplace to see that mobile phones are no more personal, the kids playback their music without their headphones as they congregate to loud music coming out of their mobile phones for their entertainment to the chagrin of fellow passengers on the bus, train or tram.

Some sort of ghetto blaster now incorporated in a mobile phone, what next? You ask!

If you dare to shut them up as I have on certain occasions asking them to use headphones, you do risk a happy-slapping, that is what we have acquired with added mobile phone sophistication, people losing their ability to be considerate members of a community as the personal space of their mobile phones garners a more public interference with our peace and wellbeing.

The loss of social consideration

Obviously, mobile phone companies and their innovators would blame all this anti-social behaviour on the people than the phone, but if they did not have tools that allowed them these abilities, they probably would not exhibit such rotten behaviour – this a topic of social scientists – how the mobile phone has changed our common societal values and why something has to give.

Many a time, I have hoped that the nuisance of a mobile phone can be solved by drowning the thing in water, and for now, I would suppose mobile phones do not come with a water resistant guarantee – there is hope.

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