Future Case

Crossmedia, Social, Mobile, Business Modeling, Marketing, Research and insights

Archive for June 2012

Proximity as a Prerequisite of Being Human

leave a comment »

Introduction

In 1966, US anthropologist Edward T. Hall published The Hidden Dimension, in which he delivered his version of the theory of Proxemics, the study of the human use of space within the context of culture. Hall argues that, although all people perceive space through sensory devices – sensory devices perhaps in a McLuhanian fashion – cultural frameworks mold and pattern it.

The culture one lives in, grew up in, understands and (to a certain extend) adapts to – say one’s cultural imprint – is of great relevance to the perception of space, as we will discuss. Hall details of Arabs who have no concept of boundaries; to them there are no strict home- city or state borders. This could explain their grand hospitality and also their physicality (Hall, p. 154). As a private observation of the author of this paper, quite to the opposite of the Arab example there are e.g. the Finns who make great effort in not hinder their fellow “place users” what so ever; for them it is simply not done to impede the other and in the extraordinary exception if hindering might be the (unforeseen and surely not intended) case, Finns tirade extensively with apologies; in that culture physical intrusion in one’s “space” publicly is simply not done.

Does perception of place equal the perception of proximity: the perceived distance – nearness – to the other (actors) in an amorphous network? The “feeling” of nearness – the relative distances between human beings and their surroundings – is called proximity. And to my believe, proximity is a prerequisite of being human (Dasein, Conditio Humana).

Place, Space and Sphere

One may observe that writers tend to mix up the words space and place. But there are relevant and significant differences between place and space. The difference is that we are at a certain place, this may be interpreted as a location, a geographical site, yet space is always around us: we have space around our bodies. This space seems (is referred to as) physical – actual – space (we may also call it personal space) as it is always nearby and, to distinct our nearby space from other connotations such as the use of the word for the universe, far away or even more abstract, the sense of freedom to move. Let us, for the moment, refer to it as actual space because we are in this space; it is around us (compare it with the water a fish swims in); it is always there.

If there is a personal space, then is there also a personal distance? ‘”Personal distance” is a conception originally used by [Hediger[1]] to designate the distance consistently separating the members of non-contact species. It might be thought of as a small protective sphere or bubble that an organism maintains between itself and others’ (Hall p. 119). This type of space is regarded as the first level of space or the micro-level. Actual space is actually quite intimate as we shall see further on.

Let us first deepen the conception of place. Place however is circumstantial. It may be day or night, the sun may shine, objects may be close to a person, there may be people close by nor far away. Therefore, place is locative; a person is always somewhere and that person is always somewhere in relation to his surrounding ‘objects’, either other people or things. In contrast to a writer like Marc Augé who speaks of “non-place”, in the actual place, the locative surroundings one finds himself in, there is no non-place. Non-place is about feelings, locations one does not want to be, perhaps has to be to transit to a place one is heading towards. An example Augé uses is the airport terminal. To many people it feels like a non-place; one would most probably not choose that particular place to be voluntarily. On the other hand, it was Brian Eno who chose such a non-place as an ambient surrounding for the premiere performance of his “Music for Airports”, which was recorded in 1978. Eno conceived the idea for this music piece while waiting for a plane in a terminal at Cologne Airport in the mid seventies. Apparently he was rather annoyed that he had to wait so long for his plane home and his surroundings were empty apart from being filled with “wrong” music although the architecture of the building as such was well designed. The combination of the spacious terminal and bad music then inspired Eno to conceive his musical piece.

Circumstantiality of place is essential to the perception of that place. A place is a physical environment, a surrounding; it is there but it is there as seen through one’s personal eyes. That is why people differ in ways of seeing their surroundings. One person may like the place he or she is in, another may, at the same time, dislike it and appreciation would depend on personal issues, taste and interests. Those factors are rather interlocked with one’s cultural heritage but are in fact based on very personal interpretation.

To Hall there is a second level, the macro-level of sensibilities. This level of perception of place is placed in a larger, non-individual, surrounding. It is about macro-perception of people and for Hall the importance lies in the attempt to raise the quality of living of a group through the “makability” of the environment (streets, neighborhoods, cities). Again, as both Hall and Augé suggest, the acceptance – or rather appreciation – of the perceived surroundings (place) is a matter of individual likings based on cultural “coding”. Augé calls this the ‘representation of private otherness, in systems studied by ethnology, place the need for it at the very heart of individuality, at a stroke making it impossible to dissociate the question of collective identity from that of individual identity’ (Augé, p. 19).

In line with the argumentations of both Hall and Augé one may conclude that place is an individually perceived (physical) surrounding. This surrounding has a purpose and because human beings perceive it, humans at least mentally but often also physically shape it. Place therefore is always tangible.

Space however, may not necessarily be tangible; formal connotation in esteemed dictionaries suggests certain intangibility. Merriam Webster speaks of space as:

  1. a period of time; also: its duration
  2. a: a limited extent in one, two, or three dimensions: distance, area, volume b: an extent set apart or available <parking space> <floor space> c: the distance from other people or things that a person needs in order to remain comfortable <invading my personal space>
  3. One of the degrees between or above or below the lines of a musical staff — compare line
  4. a: a boundless three-dimensional extent in which objects and events occur and have relative position and direction <infinite space and time>, b: physical space independent of what occupies it —called also absolute space
  5. The region beyond the earth’s atmosphere or beyond the solar system
  6. a: a blank area separating words or lines, b: material used to produce such blank area; especially: a piece of type less than one en in width
  7. a set of mathematical elements and especially of abstractions of all the points on a line, in a plane, or in physical space; especially: a set of mathematical entities with a set of axioms of geometric character — compare metric space, topological space, vector space
  8. a: linage, b: broadcast time available especially to advertisers
  9. Accommodations on a public vehicle
  10. a: the opportunity to assert or experience one’s identity or needs freely, b: an opportunity for privacy or time to oneself[2]

Is space place? Certainly not in all connotations. There is, for instance, a significant difference between definitions 1 and 10, the first being about time or netter duration of space as in ‘a spacy break in say a theatre play and the latter about the level (space) of privacy one for instance experiences in a certain situation (I feel free, I have space, I can breathe, etc.). And in between those connotations, the dictionary suggests at least eight other ways to use the word ‘Space’, ranging from ‘personal; space’ as in our ‘comfort zone’ via regions beyond earth’s atmosphere to broadcasting time for advertisers or a seat in the public transport bus.

At first glance, certain equations of place also seem to will do for space: connotations such as ‘dimension’, ‘area’, ‘physical space’, ‘region’ and even ‘accommodation on a public vehicle’ (as in heaving a seat in a bus, train or airplane) do suggest physical, tangible place. But more concept-like connotations – connotations that surpass the actuality and move, as slightly as it may seems, towards the more intangibility of the virtuality: ‘duration’, ‘infinite space’, ‘the region beyond the earth’s atmosphere’, abstractions of point on a line’, ‘broadcast time’ ‘assertion of freedom’ and last but not least, ‘freedom’.

Obviously, the conception of the word space is different from the word place as is virtuality different from actuality; they are not their opponents nor is there any polarity in the words. I suggest that the two must be seen as twins: place cannot do without space and vice versa as the two are inseparably connected and interdependent, at least from a human perception perspective.

Place to live: Suburbia

According to Hall Proxemics is ‘the term I have coined for the interrelated observations and theories of man’s use of space as a specialized elaboration of culture’ (Hall p. 1). The “coined” conception of which Hall says that he is not the originator (there is in fact quite an academic tradition that dates back to the late nineteen’s, early twentieth century with researcher such as Franz Boas, Edward Spair and Leonard Bloomfield (all anthropologists) and earlier mentioned H. Hediger, a bio-zoologist. Yet, it was Hall who coined the conception on modern life, mainly in up rising suburbia’s throughout the United States of America.

In the fifties and sixties of the twenty first century there was need for knowledge and insight in how people actually interact with their surroundings and how people in a – cultural – community perceive, conceive perhaps place and space. Modernistic Post World War II days, demanded new disposition of every day’s social, cultural and economical design. The world was changing and vast numbers of citizens had to proudly be cuddled and pampered into their clean, tidy, green and peaceful suburban prefab dwellings; bourgeois neighborhoods with ditto names such as Aspen Grove, Rosebud Spring, Roscoe Village, Twin Peaks or what ever the suburbanal planners dreamt up. It was necessary to understand what the owners of those suburban dream houses regarded as acceptable models of the use of place and space. How close could houses stand next to each other without ‘feeling’ intruded by the neighbors? How close could the next family be without being too intimate?

Those questions were relevant sixty years ago when the people of the western world were reshaping and rebuilding their surroundings, their places and spaces, after the dreadfulness of their destructive erroneous ideas of social experiments by Nazi’s and Communists. The questions are relevant today. Proximity – nearness – is increasingly and exceedingly of interest and relevance to people. Again we live in suburbia, now shaped according to “new” insights in architecture, psychology, anthropology and issues of neighborhood accessibility. We call the neighborhoods “Vinex” in Dutch and undoubtedly, other western countries have more or less the same systems of progress.

Hall determined three main categories of distance. But he did not refer to them as places; he called them spaces, although his spaces dealt with physical distance from people. Hall also referred to those paces as “bubbles”, a metaphor other writers had used before him and would use after him (e.g. Peter Sloterdijk to whom we shall refer later on). The three categories Hall mentions are:

  • Intimate space—the closest “bubble” of space surrounding a person. Entry into this space is acceptable only for the closest friends and intimates.
  • Social and consultative spaces—the spaces in which people feel comfortable conducting routine social interactions with acquaintances as well as strangers.
  • Public space—the area of space beyond which people will perceive interactions as impersonal and relatively anonymous.

Space has many definitions. But when trying to break down all these possibilities to one common denominator, one may suggest that space is perhaps an attempt to capture the phenomena of understanding man in his surroundings. It is, as Sloterdijk suggests ‘not what we are but where we are’ (Sloterdijk, 2007). And, if that is true, then one may wonder whether space is the equivalent of place.

Hall has defined space in the context of the informal or personal space(s) that

According to Hall, perception of the levels of intimacy of space is culturally determined. People from different cultures perceive space (and place) differently. Hall stressed that differing cultural frameworks for defining and organizing space, which are internalized in all people at an unconscious level, can lead to serious failures of communication and understanding in cross-cultural settings. For instance, ‘Germans sense their own space as an extension of the ego. One sees a clue to this feeling in the term “Lebensraum,” which is impossible to translate because it summarizes so much’ (Hall p.134). Or when the English use the telephone, Hall observes ‘since it is impossible to tell how preoccupied the other party will be they hesitate to use the phone; instead, they write notes. To phone is to be “pushy” and rude. A letter or telegram may be slower, but it is much less disrupting. Phones are for actual business and emergencies’ (Hall p.140)[3].

Space is a predicament, an entourage of both actual and virtual place. In that sense, space is both place and non-place as Marc Augé enlightens; a constructed area of confidence or non-confidence: space is an object to think with. Space is the foundation of proximity. The space we take – possess – determines our proximity, nearness to the other: our distance and our state of mind, our collective consciousness and our both collective and individual awareness of our raison d’etre, our Conditio Humana. Ergo, there is a reason why we crawl together to watch the national football team play or why we gather at squares to empower us in times of political or social trouble as recent history has shown during the Arab Spring.

In their writings, both Edward Hall as Peter Sloterdijk use the conception of bubbles as the metaphor to indicate the interaction of men and his environment, say an actor network. Another beautiful example of the metaphor of place or space is an observation made by Umberto Eco in his unparalleled The Infinity of Lists[4] in which he compares Roman encampments with modern American cities in the chapter The Aristotelian telescope, specifically Los Angelos. Roman encampments were paralleled and through perpendicular lines cross-sectioned squares, redeeming clear and extremely demarcated borders between place (and non-place) and its periphery. The army encampments all started out with an open square, an agorian type non-place surrounded by strictly, mathematically coordinated buildings.

According to Eco, we have transferred from that central place – the kernel of our bubble – to the metaphor of the American Main Street, slowly but steadily causing peripheries emerging in ever new peripheries culminating in area-cities without any singular and clearly defined center. In this sense, Los Angelos is the sensational example of an area-city. It is, as Eco calls it, a typical ‘etcetera list’ (a list without an ending) (Eco, 2009).

Bubbles

Bubbles as a conception for the human/environment actor network is a strong metaphor; It is as if we all live in our own private bubble that is gently glued to other bubbles around us, forming agile, ever changing constructions of togetherness – nearness even – as if it were indicating life’s amorphousness in which the objective is clear: the continuity of the species, perhaps even our desire to create; create our surroundings and create ourselves: Autopoesis. Implicitly this suggests that Autopoesis is in fact the mechanism (instrument) with which we carry on as a species: we “self-create” us by being in our individual bubbles that “glue” to other bubbles, creating foamy constellations with the intention to collectively anticipate on what comes from the outside.

In this sense, bubbles can be seen as what Sloterdijk refers to as “immune systems”. Each individual bubble acts like an individual shield through which we let just enough “hostility” in to keep us fit. If our immune system runs low, we will become affected by the outside atrocities and if we keep out immune system to tight, we will loose touch with reality and become ill as well. In his Rules from the Human Park, Sloterdijk mentions Autopoesis – self-creation – as the human tool to survive, continue. He also describes nine sub-categories of Autopoesis as pre-requisites of human life: Chirotop; Phonotop; Uterotop; Thermotop; Erotop; Ergotop; Alethotop; Thanatotop and Nomotop. Let us have a closer look at these pre-requisites that will help us understand their logics.

These pre-requisites are:

  1. Chirotop refers to the performance of the human hand, the area of what can be achieved, the world of human action, the first and primary manipulations (bids, slaps, cuts) that produce specific results in the environment;
  2. Phonotop (or Logotop) is the vocal sound that encompasses an auditory space, in which those living in the community listen to each other, talk, issue commands, and inspire each other;
  3. Uterotop (or Hysterotop) is a conquered space that aims to expand the area of maternal protection and care. This scale produces a centripetal force that is perceived and experienced by affected (or even larger units of people) and experienced as a feeling of belonging;
  4. Thermotop is the integrating heat that the group experiences arising originally home fire and thanks to which the group has the sensation of coziness and “sweetness” of home life, representing the matrix of all the experiences of well-being;
  5. Erotop the fact that different individuals form one sphere does not imply that the relationships between each other are homogenous and without dynamics. To the contrary, there is vivid interaction between these individuals in which appreciation or disapproval of individual members is constantly communicated and calibrated. These interactions contribute to the erotic climate of a sphere. In the next section, this dimension will be differentiated into erotic and thymotic components;
  6. Ergotop (or Phalotop) refers to the size of a sensus communis caused by parental authority or a religious authority that generates a spirit of cooperation that can lead to different forms of division of labor or, in extreme cases, a willingness to participate in struggles and wars in defense of the community;
  7. Alethotop (or Mnemotop) characterizes a situation in which a group capable of learning is constituted as a guardian of a set of common experiences (traditions);
  8. Thanatotop (or Theotop or even Ikonotop) refers to a place of revelation of ancestors, the dead, the spirits and gods of the group, offering to this group a semiological conection, a gateway for manifestations of the “beyond”;
  9. Nomotop binds the living traditions of the group, through the division of labor and reciprocal expectations through which the mutual exchange and the hoping of cooperation make emerge a social architecture of reciprocal expectations, of opposition and resistance that lead to a political constitution. Each of these topoi is developed and extended in chapters and passages that follow, but which I will have neither time or space to develop here (Rouanet, 2011 apart form Erotop: taken from Rauschenbach, 2011).

Sloterdijk treats us to an enneagraphical unity of nine relevant dimensions of immunity, rather than a dichotomy between, as Rauschenbach states, ‘community and society – or, social spheres’ (Rauschenbach 2011).

Immunity as another grand prerequisite of the purpose of being human may also explain our divinely attitude towards mobility, specifically the embracement of the phenomena of mobile telephones. In her thesis The Cell Phone And Its Technosocial Sites of Engagement, Amber Case (2008) reasons that the phenomenology of the cell phone lies in the auditory domain. That domain is basically public; any passer by can overhear conversations. The landline cell phone though, was connected to (a) place, mobile phones are not; they are detached from place. In fact, the “always on” mobile phonies always there where the owner is. ‘The question that remains’, as Case asks herself ‘is if the cell phone is its own place’ (Case 2007).

The use of a mobile phone turns people into ‘compound beings that are both social and technological’, Case argues. To Case, the use of a mobile phone resembles a ritual. Case observed different situations at different places where people use the mobile phone. Her objective was to understand what has actually happened with the conception of place now that the landlined telephone is hardly ever used. Apart from the fact that the introduction of the mobile phone has had an impact on the way we use our language, it also ahs had – and still has – an impact on our perception of place, space and sphere.

Before the introduction of the mobile phone, one would call a certain number, knowing that he would call an address and that the recipient might well not be the person the caller wanted to address. In terms us usage of language, the possibly not targeted recipient would most likely answer the telephone by asking who was wanted on the telephone. Today, this protocol remains but in certain geographical areas only marginally. Although the number of landlined telephone subscriptions In the Netherlands for instance, in terms of both professional as private telephoning is still relatively high, this situation may change in the near future. According to a study on landline versus mobile subscriptions in Europe[i], more and more people in the Netherlands will cancel their landline phone. ‘For them their cell phone is not a private communication medium anymore but their own telephone. Therefore they will be more inclined to give their number to other people and businesses, or even let it be registered in a public directory’ (Häder et al, 2012).

This behaviour has a certain impact, especially if we consider what the mobile phone actually is and does. Before the introduction of the mobile phone, the landline telephone was a communication object that occupied a specific space. In the more or less private sphere of a dwelling, this could be a specially designed table in the living room, hanging in the hallway (as late as the nineties of the twentieth century). Perhaps a telephone would be situated in the bedroom or would the habitant have a ‘walking phone’, a wireless handset that needed not to be in a docking station when in use. In less private spheres or places, the landline telephone would be situated on the desktop whilst the company operator would control a switchboard, even notifying the caller that the person wanted on the phone did not answer it. Situations like this are still ongoing and have a function. Let us deepen the spheres of privacy and public mobile phone domains now.

On the Phone

‘The obvious and single most defining characteristic of mobile wireless communication technology, one that precedes and co-defines its other specific features, is that it renders space largely irrelevant as a variable in constituting mediated contact’ says Imar de Vries in his most recent publication (De Vries 2012), meaning ubiquitous connectivity; connectivity being always everywhere. This is true, especially from an instrumental point of view. The hypothesis still holds in vast groups of media researchers and business developers that people want to be connected everywhere at any given moment. But is this true? The prerequisites for timeless and, in the context of this paper more relevant, placeless connectivity are not just of a technological or instrumental sort.

In private spheres, the mobile telephone has had a rather troublesome start. As early as the late eighties of last century, innovative communication companies like United States Motorola and Finnish Nokia introduced more portable than mobile communication devices. The giggly anecdotes are still heard occasionally: so-called mobile telephones with batteries as large an average shoebox, weighing tons and having an operating time of less than thirty minutes. True or not, those devices were not meant as private life communication apparatus but rather for business purposes with good reason, as we will see later on. In terms of private mobile communication connectivity, a demand for usage had not been created yet in those early days.

What led to acceptance of the new mobile communication technology was ‘the strong significance of the connectivity aspect of mobile communication devices might suggest that people value this attribute the most, and, when asked, will mention it as the principal agent to eliminate communication problems arising from physical remoteness. Yet, while discourses of mobile communication devices do indeed underline how their ability to transcend space and time is profoundly transforming our perception of communication, there are suggestions that people do not necessarily experience the functioning of those devices in such bloated terms in everyday life. According to communication scholar Valerie Frissen (2000), the mobile industry’s conception of information and communication technologies (ICTs) as the tools par excellence to solve communication problems is not immediately reflected in how people talk and think about those technologies’ (De Vries 2012).

In fact, acceptance of (new) technology also depends on a number of success factors and key design issues, mainly ‘performance expectancy’, ‘effort expectancy’, ‘social influence’ and ‘facilitating conditions’ (Venkatesh et al. 2003).

Acceptance of Technology

Venkatesh et al. have researched why people accept or not accept new technology.

Venkatesh’s TAM/UTAUT model can be regarded as an explanatory model. Venkatesh synthesized eight behavioral models into one, which he and his scholars called the Technology Acceptance Model/United Theory on the Acceptance and Usage of Technology. This model, which is basically a matrix, has four main categories of influence on the vertical axe and four on the horizontal axe, being the influential factors (gender, age, experience and voluntariness of use). The three main categories of influence are the (new) user’s expectancy of performance of the new technology, effort to be out into understanding and using the new technology, the social influence (peer pressure). These categories determine not the behavior (making use of the new technology) as such but the behavioral intention. The fourth main category is that of the facilitating conditions. This category has an immediate effect on the behavior as it is an instrumental category, e.g., the technology is available, content is available, or similar. As the reader may observe in the figure, influential factors have do not effect the four main categories equally. Obviously, ‘gender’ has no effect on ‘facilitating conditions’ but ‘age’ does. Just think of certain content that is not supposed fit for children’s eyes.

Proximity as in being Human

We have explored the prerequisites of being human, at least from a perspective of proximity. This paper is meant as “food for thought”; what is it that makes us humans the way we are. We have looked at proximity on a cultural, social and communicational level. We have seen that we develop immune systems to guard us from whatever evil we are battered with daily in our micro and macro places, space and spheres. May we than conclude that we are “spatial”? ‘It is hardly surprising that terms of [this] discourse should tend to be spatial, once it has become clear that it is the spatial arrangements that express the group’s identity (its actual origins are often diverse, but the group is established, assembled and united by the identity of the place), and that the group has to defend against external and internal threats to ensure that the language of identity retains a meaning’ (Augé, p 45).

Identity, meaning, threats, caught is a spatial discourse. With the establishments of groups, human beings commit to the characteristics of proximity; to my believe a very human characteristic, a prerequisite of being human.

References

Arendt, Hannah. The Human Condition. 2nd ed. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1958. Print.

Augé, M. Non=places. Introduction to an Athropology of Supermodernity. Tran. J. Howe. (Verso) London: Editions du Seuil, 1995. Print.

Bergson, H. Time and Free Will. Tran. F. L. Pogson. 1950th ed. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1910. Print.

Bordieu, P. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. Tran. R. Nice. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1984. Print.

Case, A. “The Cell Phone and its Technosocial Sites of Engagement.” Partial fulfillment of a Degree in Sociology/Anthropology Lewis & Clark College, 2007. Print.Portland, Oregon: .

De Vries, I. O. Tantalisingly Close. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2012. Print. Media Matters .

Dennett, D. C. Freedom Evolves. Putnam: Penguin Books, 2003. Print.

Eco, U. De Betovering Van Lijsten. Trans. Y. Boek and P. Krone. Amsterdam: Bert Bakker, 2009. Print.

Eno, B. A Year with Swollen Appendices. London: Faber & Faber, 1996. Print.

Hall, E. T. The Hidden Dimension. New York: Anchor Books, 1966. Print.

Halldén, K., E. Le Grand, and Z. Hellgren. “
Introduction: Social Stratification in Multyethnioc Societies: Class and Ethnicity.” Ethnicity and Social Divisions. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008. 1. Print.

Jans, E.,. “Peter Sloterdijk: Schuim.” http://www.vlabinvbc.be. 1 juni 2009 2009.Web. <http://www.vlabinvbc.be/?navigatieid=45&berichtid=990&maand=6&jaar=2009&gt;.

Lister M., Dovey J., Giddings S., Grant I., Kelly K. New Media: A Critical Introduction Second Edition. second edition ed. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2009. Print.

Plant, S. On the Mobile Phone. the Effects of Mobile Telephones an Social and Individual Life. Unknown: Motorola, 2002 (?). Print.

Rauschenbach, R. “How to Govern the Universalizing Community: Peter Sloterdijk’s Concept of Co-Immunism”. 6th ECPR General Conference, University of Iceland. 25th – 27th August 2011, Reykjavik. Zurich: 2011. 1. Print.

Rouanet, B. F. “The Trilogy Spheres of Peter Sloterdijk.” Journal of Oriental Studies 21 (2011): 73. Print.

Schäfer, M. T. Basterd Culture. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2011. Print. Media Matters .

Sloterdijk, P. Sferen. Tran. H. Driessen. Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Boom, 2007. Print.

Still, H. “Blackberry suyper populair onder Amsterdamse Jongeren.” 10 April 2010Web. <http://www.parool.nl/parool/nl/38/MEDIA/article/detail/288291/2010/04/10/Blackberry-superpopulair-onder-Amsterdamse-jongeren.dhtml&gt;.

Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together: Why we Expect More from Technology and Less from each Other. New York, NY: Basic Books, 2011. Print.

Unknown. “Nomads at Last.” The Economist July 24, 2008 2008Print.

van den Boomen, M. Digital Material. Tracing New Media in Everyday Life and Technology. Eds. M. van den Boomen, et al. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2009. Print. Media Matters .

Van Lier, Heleen. “De Toekomst Van Sociale Media is Geautomatiseerd Delen: Handig Maar Soms Ook Gênant.” De VolkskrantPrint. Februari 16, 2012 2012.

Veenstra, Mettina. “De toekomst van retail: focus op bezoeker en experience.” Frankwatching. 21 februari, 2012 21 februari 2012.Web. <http://www.frankwatching.com/archive/2012/02/21/de-toekomst-van-retail-focus-op-bezoeker-en-experience/&gt;.

Venkatesh et al. “User Acceptance of Information Technology: Toward a Unified View.” MIS Quarterly 27.No. 3 (2033): 425. Print.

Weber, M. Economy and Society. Eds. G. Roth and C. Wittich. 1978th ed. Berkely and Los Angelos: University of California Press, 1968. Print.

Weltevrede, Esther. “On Spheres and Media Theory.” 06 April 2008.Web. <http://mastersofmedia.hum.uva.nl/2008/04/06/on-spheres-and-media-theory/comment-page-1/#comment-358485&gt;.

Yaish, M., and R. Andersen. “Social Mobility in 20 Modern Societies: The Role of Economic and Political Context.” Social Science Research 41 (2012): 527. Print.


[1] Hediger, H. Studies of the Psychology and Behavior of Captive Animals in Zoos and Circuses. London: Butterworth & Company, 1955. Source used by Hall.

[3] Please note, what Hall said this is 1966. Today’s attitude of the British towards phones has changed significantly.

[4] The author read the book in Dutch; translation s by the author, verified through Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Infinity-Lists-Umberto-Eco/dp/toc/1906694826)


Written by Kees Winkel

June 28, 2012 at 16:05

Posted in 1

Tagged with , , , , ,

Mobility as a Behavioral Object of Conditio Humana

with one comment

Mobile Life, hypothesis of a phenomenon

We are wanderers, commuters, tourists, refuge seekers, travellers, nomads or whatever modus or role we are into. We are always on the move. Human active life – Conditio Humana or Vita Activa – is based on mobility. Mobility is the ability to move from one place to another. We move not only in actual, say physical space but also in virtuality. We take the train to move from one place to another, walk around or drive to some place. And when we make a ‘move’ on a social hierarchal ladder, we call it mobility as well. Henri Bergson, the last characteristic of temporal progress is mobility. In Bergson’s view, freedom is mobility. Can we then argue that being mobile is being free? And to add a layer of complexity, has the up rise of mobile phones in our daily activity helped us free ourselves? I argue that mobility is a behavioral object of Conditio Humana; mobility is indissolubly interconnected with our lives.

 

Mobile and Mobility, a definition

What is the meaning of the word – the conception – of mobile? What do we want to express when we use the word? The phenomenon of mobility requires clarification as it employs many connotations. Mobile is generally considered to be an adjective of the noun mobility but in the case of a Mobile, there are at least two commonly used connotations, the one being a movable as in a carefully equilibrated composition of sticks and ropes that hangs e.g. over a cradle, the other being a portable and wireless telephone, a mobile phone. Those are obviously quite controversial conceptions.

Given the significant controversies in the conception of what Mobile and Mobility actually express, let us determine what the can be and in what manner it affects human life.

 

According to Merriam Webster’s online dictionary, ‘Mobile’ as an adjective of mobility has several connotations e.g. being capable of moving or being moved (movable a mobile missile launcher). It can also mean changeable in appearance, mood, or purpose: mobile face or adaptable, versatile or migratory which may also refer to a certain ‘movability’ conception.  And then, mobility may also refer to being characterized by the mixing of social groups, or having the opportunity for or undergoing a shift in status within the levels of a society: socially mobile workers. And marked by the use of vehicles for transportation: mobile warfare and relating to a mobile phone[1].

 

Mobile also refers to being capable of moving or of being moved readily from place to place: a mobile organism; a mobile missile system, capable of moving or changing, fluid; unstable: a mobile situation following the coup quickly from one state or condition to another: a mobile, expressive face, marked by the easy intermixing of different social groups: a mobile community, moving relatively easily from one social class or level to another: an upwardly mobile generation, tending to travel and relocate frequently: a restless, mobile society, flowing freely; fluid: a mobile liquid[2].

 

In On the Mobile, Sadie Plant has also delivered us an interesting list about Mobile. She treats us to different foreign language words for the mobile phone:

  • French: le portable, or le G which stand for GSM.
  • Finnish: kanny.
  • German use the word handy.
  • In Spanish the word is el movil.
  • Americans say Cell Phone.
  • The Arabs call it a telephonesayaar or makhmul or gowal, which stands for air phone.
  • The Thai name the mobile moto.
  • Japanese say is keitai denwa.
  • The Chinese use their sho ji

If we translate these names, all deal with either portable, ‘air’ or to be carried in the hand (handy, kanny) (Plant, 2002).

 

Traditional sociology categorizes mobility in the realms of economic and social mobility. Economic mobility in sociological terms is when a person ‘moves’ from one economic status to another. This status is usually measured in demographics, specifically income but also the appreciation of certain city areas and, disputably, ethnic roots are or can be indicators of economical mobility. Economic mobility researches two main movements intergenerational, the status movement from two exceeding generations (“today’s generation performs better than its parent’s”) and intragenerational mobility (status movement in one person’s lifetime). As you may notice, the word “status” is mentioned here. Status in the context of mobility is also referred to as “milieu” in a sense in the connotation of sociocultural environment (class). ‘The structure of classes – milieus – reproduces itself constantly due to indissoluble differences in lifestyle, social participation and political ideology’ (Bordieu, 1984). This particular phenomenon is also referred to as Social (im-) mobility; a node in a specific sociocultural milieu may experience difficulty in trying “to move on”, being sociologically mobile.

 

As we see, there are different connotations for different domains of mobility. Henri Bergson added the element of time – duration – to the contemplative conception of mobility. By doing so, he conditioned the concept of qualitative multiplicity i.e. a singularized, continuous, dualistic and temporal and not representable in a symbol. “Here “multiplicity” is employed as a barely nominalized adjective. And it’s true that Bergson often expressed himself thus. But at other times, the word ‘multiplicity” is employed in the strong sense, as a true substantive, thus, from the second chapter of Time and Free Will onward, the number is a multiplicity, which does not mean the same thing at all as a multiplicity of numbers’ (Deleuze, 2007[3]).

 

‘Bergson calls the last characteristic of temporal progress mobility. For Bergson — and perhaps this is his greatest insight — freedom is mobility. (Deleuze 1986) [4]. For him, there is always a priority of movement over the things that move; the thing that moves is an abstraction from the movement. The elastic band being stretched is a more exact image of duration. But the image of the elastic is still, according to Bergson, incomplete because no image can represent duration. An image is immobile, while duration is “pure mobility” (Deleuze 1986). Later in the second half of last century, philosophers like Deleuze and Foucault in particular dissociated qualitative multiplicity from time and associated with space

 

Can we then draw the conclusion that mobility, as an abstraction of movement and Bergsonian freedom are laid in the realm of space? Truly, mobility is real, at least, movement can be observed and its effects can be described and interpreted. In the attempt to fathom the enigma of Mobility, to this stage three elements are conceptions of relevance: movement, duration and space.

 

To replenish our list of connotations and interpretations, there are even dwellings and towns that are called Mobile. There is one in Alabama at the firth of the river Mobile that flows into Mobile Bay. The town is renowned for the US Civil War ‘Battle of Mobile’ in 1781. Then there are Mobile Cities in Arizona, California and Newfoundland & Labrador in Canada.

To end this retrospective intermezzo of what the conception of Mobile may refer to, there is one Mobile with an apropos; it was the Mabila, a now extinguished Indian tribe that gave its name to the city of Mobile in Alabama. Apparently, movability as the primary meaning of the conception has nothing to do with that glorious town in the Deep South of the US of A.

 

Mobility as a behavioral object of Conditio Humana

The conception of Mobile bears a near inexhaustible list of connotations that may be tabulated in four main conceptions:

  1. Mobility as a conception of physical movement; moving from one place to another.
  2. Mobility as a conception of space and time; duration.
  3. Mobility as a conception of sphere; spaciousness in a figurative manner.
  4. Mobility as a conception of freedom.

 

Now the question rises whether Mobility is a natural behavior of man; are we mobile? Is mobility a behavioral object of being, our “dasein; human existence” the Conditio Humana or is Mobility a contraption of a human desire to be movable, flexible perhaps? If that is the case then Mobility may well be a human imaginary, a dream of freedom perhaps more than rather a scanty hope of being free? In this respect, Daniel Dennett refers to freedom like the air we breathe, freedom like democracy, freedom as an illusion or even more poetical, freedom of the birds (Dennett 2003); not captivated within either moral, social or political boundaries; freedom is having no borders. In Freedom Evolves (2003), Dennett quotes Nicholas Maxwell as he defines freedom to be ‘the capacity to achieve what is of value in a range of circumstances’ (Dennett 2003). Of course this confronts us with the open question of what value actually is. For Dennett all in life is “up for grabs” as there is no constraint on what we, within our unique (human) ability to (re-) consider is worth living for, say, what we believe to be of value. In this sense Mobility, as we believe it to help (assist) us at least to consider “movement” in either place, space or perhaps sphere is freedom, freedom not necessarily to choose values to life by but a freedom of (re-) consideration thus relaying one’s life in order to make it worthwhile to live that life.

 

Perhaps Mobility is a behavioral object of what Hannah Arendt calls Conditio Humana that can be contemplated in the tradition of Vita Activa, her interpretation of the problem of reasserting the politics as an important broadening of praxis, human action, and the world of appearances. This requires some deepening.

 

In The human condition, Hannah Arendt argues that the Western philosophical tradition has devalued the world of human action that attends to appearances (the vita activa), subordinating it to the life of contemplation that concerns itself with essences and the eternal (the vita contemplativa). She continues: ‘argues for a tripartite division between the human activities of labor, work, and action’ (Arendt 1958). Moreover, she arranges these activities in a hierarchy of importance. For Arendt, the hierarchy of importance as a central driver in political freedom characterizes our modern times.

 

The basal principle of action (vita activa) lies in its ever-present freedom and its role; to Arendt it is an end in itself with no subordination. Arendt argues that it is a mistake to take freedom to be primarily an inner, contemplative or private phenomenon, for it is in fact active, worldly and public. We sense of (inner) freedom comes from having had experiences of ‘a condition of being free as a tangible worldly reality. We first become aware of freedom or its opposite in our intercourse with others, not in the intercourse with ourselves’ (Arendt, 1958).

Furthermore, in defining action as freedom, and freedom as action, we can see the decisive influence of Augustine upon Arendt’s thought. From Augustine’s political philosophy she takes the theme of human action as beginning: To act, in its most general sense, means to take initiative, to begin (as the Greek word archein, ‘to begin,’ ‘to lead,’ and eventually ‘to rule’ indicates), to set something in motion. Because they are initium, newcomers and beginners by virtue of birth, men take initiative, are prompted into action.

‘And further, that freedom is to be seen as a character of human existence in the world. Man does not so much possess freedom as he, or better his coming into the world, is equated with the appearance of freedom in the universe; man is free because he is a beginning…’ (Arendt, 1958).

 

Hannah Arendt argues that today’s ideas about freedom, specifically political ideas, really deal with freedom as action. If, as she has taken from classical philosophy, politikos is about being acting – acting – then freedom is in fact action. ‘The raison d’etre is freedom and its field of experience is action’ (Arendt, 1958). This then means that our actions are in fact exposures of our freedom. Mobility is action. We can now argue that Mobility is freedom is politics: politics in a connotation of Homo Poltikos; the operating or accomplishing man. Ergo, the man of action.

 

But then, according to Vilém Flusser the [new] human being is not a man of action anymore but a player: Homo Ludens as opposed to homo Faber, the producing (working) man. Life is no longer a drama for him, but a performance. It is no longer a question of action but of sensation” (Flusser, 1999, p. 89).

For Flusser the new human beings seek experience rather then perform or produce. In Flusser’s discourse, experience may well be synonymized with enjoyment and as a concretizing of this believe, Flusser speaks of man having programs instead of problems. To modern man, problems, if any, are failures in programs. Might it just be that modern man – man as in human beings therefore including women – experiences software as program failures, software that is embedded in devices that enrich life. Flusser, in this context refers to apparatus rather than what popular discourse may refer to as machines. A machine is often seen as a mechanical device whilst an apparatus is either a set of materials or devices designed for a particular use

 

In Flusser’s day and age, the shift from machine to apparatus must have been a shift in paradigms; now apparatus as complexities of supportive contraptions to mankind were the enablers of freedom; apparatus as supportive objects of Conditio Humana?

Another transition has since been observed. It is the transition from a, as Rik Maes writes, ‘things-oriented’ culture to the information culture that ligatures with the up rise of apparatus[5]. That up rise happens currently.

 

What do human beings who are no longer interested in things but in information, symbols, codes and models look like? According to Maes, we can compare our era with the days of the industrial revolution; “we resemble the citizens of the French Revolution rather than we resemble our children” (Maes, 2011): we experience a intergenerational socio-economical mobility in which the baby-booming generation has lost track of its offspring as if we experience paradise lost; a new generation, as always, commissions new social playing rules, a new order.

 

This new generation refuses to in a world of collective, steerable achievements from the decades of the reign of machines. The new generation desires the unsteerability, undoablity of “bottom-up” society. This new generation (and those who attract to the new fashion) life is increasingly becoming a combination of man and apparatus. Maes speaks of “society as cyborg” [6].

 

Mobile Milieus

On a very general level – and following the seminal work of Marx and Weber – one can say that classes are positions in the order of production into which individuals are placed. This means that a class structure is a form of economic structure embedded in social relations and culture (Crompton and Scott, 2005: 186[7]). This particular connotation refers to a definable group of people with the same qualifications; a groups sharing the same economic and or social status. For Marx, a class is the outcome of the capitalist fashion of organizing society. It has to do with property, physical property such as real estate and money in the bank. But just those characteristics as there must also be a certain “way of life”, a resemblance in the way exponents of that class think about issues on possession, politics and power. Marx’s labor theory has long been an, at least, influential hypothesis for generations, far into the midst of the twentieth century.

For Weber (1978; 2004[8]), a person’s “class situation”, or her membership in a particular [socio-] economic class, is determined by the life chances, which inhere from her position within a capitalist market.

But then, in today’s world we also see the rise of a different class, not necessarily based on economical principles and with a different perspective towards “life chances”. These groups of people – communalities – can be referred to as “milieus” and in the context of this paper “mobile milieus”. A milieu is rather an ambience, a sphere in which the group acts; a what Peter Sloterdijk refers to as a bubble, an immune system in which people may have different economical status but still all (or most) in the bubble “belong” together. Thus, a milieu is not based on economical principles per se but on cultural and or motivational such as peer-acceptance seekers. And in a

 

Stereotyped Observations

Let us consider some of the effects of the use of the mobile phone on our society. Just walk in a street of a town, wait at a bus stop, sit in a train or wait for a plain to board: big chance what you will see (and hear) is people staring at handheld mobile phones, not necessarily talking in the phone, as many of those devices also function as very small communication computing devices. According to Benson, ‘this major change in human behaviour has come about within a remarkably short time, but its implications need to be considered. Many people have willingly taken this option of continuous communication; and many more have been forced to accept it as a condition of their employment’ (Benson 2011). And, to be constantly available, for instance in work-related issues, make the employee find himself in a changed role since the days before the breakthrough of the mobile phone; there is no excuse anymore not to be addressable at any given moment during the twenty four hours of a day. ‘Even while making a meal at home, or travelling on the bus, one might be interrupted by a business call’ (Benson, 2011).

 

It is a common sight in Dutch cities to see young girls, in the age scope of, say, 15 to 25, walking in a more or less hastened tempo, fiercely avoiding eye contact with their surroundings. In their hands they all carry a Blackberry and while on their path, they very regularly watch their Blackberry with a facial expression that suggests the expectation of a very, very important telephone call. Observing this particular group of female adolescents one may very well distinguish more communality in the group’s nones. If not inspecting their communication artifact, he girls all carry their Blackberry well in range of the observers’ scope. Skeptics may add extra artifacts to visualize the group. Our girls mainly have long blond and slick hair. Their feet are covered in elephant-shaped booties with a brand name that stands for ugly. When less than, give or take 18˚C, they may wear one specific brand of coat of the type that has a fur brim at the hood. When moving from one place to another, the girls drive a certain brand of, preferably, custom made motor scooter of Italian make. Commonly, the girls are observed to be of ethnic Dutch origins and in many cases, they belong to milieus of middle to higher social status.

In recent years, we have observed a rather interesting movement, a true example of what we may call an attempt of social mobility; an interesting case as it deals also with the mobile device; Blackberry and other peer group-connoted artifacts (such as specific brands of bags and baseball caps, apparels and garments, perfumes and accessories).

The movement is observed in groups of ethnic minorities, mainly of Moroccan and Turkish descent. Adolescents in these groups are of third and fourth generation and socio-political discourse claims a concern regarding the perception of identity of these people; it is currently a popular believe in The Netherlands that these people perceive themselves as neither true Moroccan (or Turkish) in a cultural sense of the word, nor do they feel truly Dutch. In this context it is relevant to mention that vast majorities in these ethnical minorities are of lower social status milieus.

One observation in this context is that groups of Moroccan adolescent girls ‘dress up’ not only as their all-Dutch peers but also even exaggerate the outfitting and the associated behavior.

Obviously some of the behavior may be explained in the context of general adolescent behavior, regardless of culture. Otherwise one may argue that certain behavior is due to the desire to move from a certain sphere an ethnical adolescent find herself in (or himself for that matter) to a socially higher appreciated sphere.

 

In the context of (social) mobility, Blackberry appears to be an important artifact for adolescent groups in terms of ‘growing up’ and intergenerational social mobility, at least in The Netherlands although one may question the true relevance when observing the mobile OS (Mobile Operating System) statistics in the region; it is clear that Blackberry has only limited market share with Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android as supreme market owners currently.

An interesting question rises: what makes Blackberry specifically so interesting for these groups of users? An article in Het Parool[9] dating 10 April 2010 may bear some answers.

Amongst adolescents in Amsterdam, Blackberry, especially business-type devices of the brand were most popular, even exceeding iPhone. According to a spokeswoman of KPN’s youth brand Hi, Ping with which one can send and receive free of charge messages unlimitedly, was the magic application that did it all. Back in 2010, Ping was a Blackberry-specific application; if one would want to ping, one needed a Blackberry. According to the spokeswoman, this fact explained the business success.

However, since 2010, Blackberry has met some troublesome market challenges. Strangely enough, expected sales of Blackberry amongst adolescents in The Netherlands apparently still seem significant[10].

 

Ethnicity might thus be understood as a status marker that differentiates between groups and individuals. As we have mentioned above, immigrants and ethnic minorities often belong to the most deprivileged socioeconomic categories in the societies where they live. It might though be hard to tell how much of an immigrant’s disadvantage that springs from him or her being labeled as different in terms of ethnicity, and how much is related to his or her class position, a class position that often changes through migration as such: downward mobility from the position in the country of origin to the country of settlement is common (Portes and Zhou, 1993). When disadvantage in terms of lacking opportunities to upward mobility is reproduced in the second and even third generation, it is even more likely that discrimination is involved. In this way, “symbolic” distinctions between ethnicities come to have concrete socioeconomic consequences for those who are shut out from good job opportunities because of factors such as their names or looks. Once again, the categories of class and ethnicity are often entwined[11].

 

The exceptional popularity of the cell phone among youth can be linked back to their need for an individual identity, maintenance of friendship networks, and emancipation from family ties. Moreover, as Geser (2004) points out, without possessing fixed addresses and stationary resources, cell phone connection is the only thing that anchors them to the society. Ling (2002) states that the use of the cell phone helps define adolescents vis-à-vis older generations. Its real impact is in terms of its ability to define adolescents’ identity. The “emancipation” of adolescents from their parents is a contributing factor to the formation of their identity. Höflich & Rössler (2002) state that adolescents in order to challenge the social world of adults and to show resistance to it, thereby strengthening a subculture as well as constructing an identity, sometimes use the obtrusiveness of cell phones in a provocative manner. Besides the emancipation from adults and maintenance of friendship networks, cell phones contribute to identity assertion by being highly personal devices, with a vast scope for further personalization. Pertierra (2005) reports the sentiment that the cell phone as a personal device is a style statement[12].

 

The question of whether the cell phone is seen as a symbol of status within the adolescent subculture has been dealt with in a number of studies. The unexpected rate at which cell phone technology has been developed and adopted has made it a very popular phenomenon, and as such it is no longer associated with prestige, as was the case only a few years ago (Höflich & Rössler, 2002; Lorente, 2002). However, some studies indicate that the cell phone might in some ways still be a source of social prestige. For instance, the cell phone might act as the barometer of an adolescent’s social life in the amount of messages and calls he or she receives, thereby contributing to aspects of social prestige (Lobet- Maris & Henin, 2002, p. 110). Likewise, a significant percentage of adolescents in Finland who did not have a cell phone reported feeling left out of social interactions and sometimes felt pressured by friends to get a cell phone (Ling, 2004)[13].

 

‘Wireless communication is changing the way people work, live, love and relate to places—and each other’, says Andreas Kluth In The Economist;s Special Report on Mobility[14]. Urban nomads have started appearing only in the past few years. According to Kluth, modern nomads have a lot in common with their ancestors in the desert; nomads carry only what the need stricktly to survive during their travels. All the rest can be gathered at oases or other – temporary – dwellings. Modern nomads do not carry paper. They have all their documents in their laptop or, better, somewhere in the cloud. Kluth furthermore enlightens us on the fact that e.g. Google executives travel only with their iPhone and a Blackberry: ‘if ever the need arises for a large keyboard and some earnest typing, they sit down in front of the nearest available computer anywhere in the world, open its web browser and access all their documents online’ (Economist 2008).

 

Like their antecedents in the desert, they are defined not by what they carry but by what they leave behind, knowing that the environment will provide it. Thus, Bedouins do not carry their own water, because they know where the oases are. Modern nomads carry almost no paper because they access their documents on their laptop computers, mobile phones or online. Increasingly, they don’t even bring laptops. Many engineers at Google, the leading Internet company and a magnet for nomads, travel with only a BlackBerry, iPhone or other “smart phone

As a species, Ms. Turkle thinks, we run the risk of letting the permanent wireless social clouds that surround us steal part of our nature[15].

 

I am mobile therefore I am, a conclusion

Persuasive rhetorics of advertising cuddle us in techno-utopic imaginaries of virtual mobility, happiness and freedom; by the push of one button we control our social networks, digital profiles, bank account and we deliver status updates in less than 140 characters at any given time, place and circumstance. An entire global industry pounds us with handy to have and easy to use applications, regardless of operatings systems and current location. Whilst gaming singly or multi-player hypes like Wordfeud on mini screens is for killing time at non-places (in a pure Augé-fashion of the word), locative services guide us to our destinations all around the world. According to Business Insider[16], the best selling top three iOS apps ever are 1) Angry Birds, 2) Doodle Jump and 3) Bejeweled 2.

But then, we are merely talking about “killing time”. According to the same source, the top ten app “we” cannot live without (at least if you are in the US) are 1) Twitter, 2) Kindle for iPhone, 3) Instapaper, 4) Angry Birds (can’t live without?), 5) Touch Mouse, 6) Weather Channel, 7) ESPN ScoreCenter (US only sports statistics), 8) iFitness, 9) MLB (Major League Basketball), 10 Golfshot[17]. Obviously, this list is a US one; the assumption is that European lists are more or less similar in essence.

 

According to de Vries, “mobile communication devices are the self-evident technological expression of a presumed ‘natural’ progression in the quest for perfected communication” (de Vries, 2009). But it is not just perfected communication that is the quest. Today, in a country like The Netherlands, the assumption is that there are more mobile phones then there is capita, which is confirmed by TNO’s market report # 35593 of December 2011[18]; in Q2 of 2011, there were 19.376.000 mobile telephone connections. Do facts and figures like these presume that mobility, in this context mobile communication and Internet access, means freedom? Is the mobile phone the “Liberator” of mankind?

 

Mobility – being mobile, movable in place, space and sphere – can be seen as a behavioral object of our being human; Conditio Humana. It is not just a genuine believe that “man moves”, it is a fact. We move because we must, we have to go from one condition (position) to another. In this alliance, the up rise of the mobile phone came at a right time as a supportive tool for our “Dasein”, our existence, our being human, our Conditio Humana; I am mobile therefore I am.

 

 

References

Arendt, Hannah. The Human Condition. 2nd ed. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1958. Print.

Augé, M. Non=places. Introduction to an Athropology of Supermodernity. Tran. J. Howe. (Verso) London: Editions du Seuil, 1995. Print.

Bordieu, P. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. Tran. R. Nice. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1984. Print.

Case, A. “The Cell Phone and its Technosocial Sites of Engagement.” Partial fulfillment of a Degree in Sociology/Anthropology Lewis & Clark College, 2007. Print.Portland, Oregon: .

De Vries, I. O. Tantalisingly Close. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2012. Print. Media Matters .

Dennett, D. C. Freedom Evolves. Putnam: Penguin Books, 2033. Print.

Jans, E.,. “Peter Sloterdijk: Schuim.” http://www.vlabinvbc.be. 1 juni 2009 2009.Web. <http://www.vlabinvbc.be/?navigatieid=45&berichtid=990&maand=6&jaar=2009&gt;.

Lawlor, L. and M. “”Henri Bergson” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy .” Spring 2012Web. <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2012/entries/bergson/&gt;.

Lister M., Dovey J., Giddings S., Grant I., Kelly K. New Media: A Critical Introduction Second Edition. second edition ed. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2009. Print.

Matthieu J., Guitton. “The Immersive Impact of Meta-Media in a Virtual World.” Computers in Human Behavior 28.2 (2012): 450-5. Print.

McKenzie, Hamish. “
Web 2.0 Is Over, All Hail the Age of Mobile.” pandoDaily. April 28, 2012Web. <http://pandodaily.com/2012/04/27/web-2-0-is-over-all-hail-the-age-of-mobile/&gt;.

“McLuha”. “Marshall McLuhan on the Mobile Phone.” McLuhan Galaxy , http://mcluhangalaxy.wordpress.com/  (November 19, 2011) Blog.

Plant, S. On the Mobile Phone. the Effects of Mobile Telephones an Social and Individual Life. Unknown: Motorola, 2002 (?). Print.

Schäfer, M. T. Basterd Culture. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2011. Print. Media Matters .

Sloterdijk, P. Sferen. Tran. H. Driessen. Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Boom, 2007. Print.

Swiestra, Tsjalling et al. Leven Als bouwpakketEthisch Verkennen Van Een Nieuwe Technologische Golf. 1st ed. Den Haag: Rathenau Instituut, 2009. Print.

Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together: Why we Expect More from Technology and Less from each Other. New York, NY: Basic Books, 2011. Print.

Unknown. “Nomads at Last.” The Economist July 24, 2008 2008 Print.

van den Boomen, M. Digital Material. Tracing New Media in Everyday Life and Technology. Eds. M. van den Boomen, et al. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2009. Print. Media Matters .

Venkatesh et al. “User Acceptance of Information Technology: Toward a Unified View.” MIS Quarterly 27.No. 3 (2033): 425. Print.

Weber, M. Economy and Society. Eds. G. Roth and C. Wittich. 1978th ed. Berkely and Los Angelos: University of California Press, 1968. Print.

Weltevrede, Esther. “On Spheres and Media Theory.” 06 April 2008.Web. <http://mastersofmedia.hum.uva.nl/2008/04/06/on-spheres-and-media-theory/comment-page-1/#comment-358485&gt;.

Endnotes


[2] Merriam webster

[5] De ondraaglijke lichtheid van het mobieltje. Rik Maes

[6] De ondraaglijke lichtheid van het mobieltje. Rik Maes

[7] Ethnicity and Social Divisions (PDF)

[8] id.

[10] This tekst appears somewhat speculative. The reason for it is the highly protective attitude of Dutch providers and devices makers; trustworthy figures are not made public.

[11] Ethnicity and Social Divisions: Contemporary Research in Sociology (PDF)

[12] The Cell Phone as an Agent of Social Change. PDF

[13] The Cell Phone as an Agent of Social Change. PDF

[18] Marktrapportage Elektronische Communicatie December 2011

Written by Kees Winkel

June 25, 2012 at 15:18

Posted in 1

Tagged with , ,

On Proximity, the first 800 words of a philosophical paper due in two weeks

leave a comment »

In 1966, US anthropologist Edward T. Hall published The Hidden Dimension, in which he developed his version of the theory of Proxemics, the study of the human use of space within the context of culture. Hall argues that, although all people perceive space through sensory devices – sensory devices perhaps in a McLuhanian fashion – cultural frameworks mold and pattern it.

According to Hall, people form space around their bodies; physical space, Hall calls it personal space and one may also refer to it as actual space. Hall also introduces a second level of Proxemics, the macro-level of sensibilities; the cultural expectations of how to shape people’s surroundings (streets, neighborhoods, cities). And as an anthropologist, obviously Hall suggests ways how these macro-levels of space should be organized properly. But what is space and what is proximity and have these two to do with one each other?

Space has a number of connotations. Merriam Webster offers us ten:

  1. a period of time; also:  its duration
  2. a: a limited extent in one, two, or three dimensions: distance, area, volume b: an extent set apart or available <parking space> <floor space> c: the distance from other people or things that a person needs in order to remain comfortable <invading my personal space>
  3. One of the degrees between or above or below the lines of a musical staff — compare line
  4. a: a boundless three-dimensional extent in which objects and events occur and have relative position and direction <infinite space and time>, b: physical space independent of what occupies it —called also absolute space
  5. The region beyond the earth’s atmosphere or beyond the solar system
  6. a: a blank area separating words or lines, b: material used to produce such blank area; especially: a piece of type less than one en in width
  7. a set of mathematical elements and especially of abstractions of all the points on a line, in a plane, or in physical space; especially: a set of mathematical entities with a set of axioms of geometric character — compare metric space, topological space, vector space
  8. a: linage, b: broadcast time available especially to advertisers
  9. Accommodations on a public vehicle
  10. a: the opportunity to assert or experience one’s identity or needs freely, b: an opportunity for privacy or time to oneself

Is space place? Certainly not in all connotations. There is, for instance, a significant difference between definitions 1 and 10, the first being about time and the latter about experience and privacy. Hall has defined space in the context of the informal or personal space(s) that surround individuals as

  • Intimate space, the closest space surrounding a person. One who wants to enter in this space must be accepted as an intimate; a trustworthy and close friend.
  • Social and consultative spaces, spaces in which people feel comfortable conducting routine social interactions with acquaintances as well as strangers.
  • Public space, the area of space beyond which people will perceive interactions as impersonal and relatively anonymous.

According to Hall, perception of the levels of intimacy of space is culturally determined. People from different cultures perceive space (and place) differently. Hall stressed that differing cultural frameworks for defining and organizing space, which are internalized in all people at an unconscious level, can lead to serious failures of communication and understanding in cross-cultural settings. For instance, ‘Germans sense their own space as an extension of the ego. One sees a clue to this feeling in the term “Lebensraum,” which is impossible to translate because it summarizes so much’ (Hall p.134). Or when the English use the telephone, Hall observes ‘since it is impossible to tell how preoccupied the other party will be they hesitate to use the phone; instead, they write notes. To phone is to be “pushy” and rude. A letter or telegram may be slower, but it is much less disrupting. Phones are for actual business and emergencies’ (Hall p.140)[1].

Space is a predicament, an entourage of both actual and virtual place. In that sense, space is both place and non-place as Marc Augé enlightens; a constructed area of confidence or non-confidence; space is an object to think with.

Place is the foundation of proximity. The place we take – possess – determines our proximity, nearness to the other; our distance and our state of mind. There is a reason why we crawl together to watch the national football team play or why we gather at squares to empower us in times of political or social trouble as recent history has shown during the Arab Spring.

Both Edward Hall as Peter Sloterdijk use the metaphor of bubbles. It is as if we all live in our own private bubble that is gently glued to other bubbles around us, forming agile, ever changing constructions of togetherness; an indicating amorphousness in which the objective is clear: the continuity of the species.

To Be Continued after the weekend


[1] Please note, Hall said this is 1966. Today’s attitude of the British towards phones has changed significantly.

Written by Kees Winkel

June 15, 2012 at 21:46

Posted in 1

Tagged with , , , , ,

Newspaper Celebrates Digitalisation, Prints Entire Front Page in Binary

leave a comment »

Written by Kees Winkel

June 8, 2012 at 16:02

Posted in 1

Tagged with , ,

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 279 other followers

%d bloggers like this: