From Social Butterfly to Urban Citizen: The Evolution of Mobile Phone Practice
Satchell, Christine (2009) From Social Butterfly to Urban Citizen: The Evolution of Mobile Phone Practice. In Foth, Marcus (Ed.) Handbook of research on urban informatics: the practice and promise of the real-time city. Information Science Reference, IGI Global, Hershey, PA, pp. 353-365.
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Early 21st century societies are evolving into a hybrid of real and synthetic worlds where everyday activities are mediated by technology. The result is a new generation of users extending their everyday experiences into these emerging digital ecologies. However, what happens when users re-create their human identity in these spaces? How do the tools of new technologies such as the mobile phone allow them to capture and share their experiences? In order to address these issues this chapter presents the findings from a three-year study into mobile phone use in urban culture. The study revealed that for a new generation the mobile was integral in the formation of fluid social interactions and had accelerated urban mobility. Users once restrained by pre-made plans were able to spontaneously traverse the city and suburbs, swarming between friendship groups and activities. Distinct user archetypes were emerging from these mobile phone driven sub-cultures whose practices were bringing about fundamental changes in social mores with respect to engagement and commitment, to notions of fluid time versus fixed time and ultimately to urban mobility. Connectivity had become central to what it means to have a social identity and users were responding to this by merging bits of data to create their 'ideal digital self' through which they communicate socially. Yet, recent developments in mobile phone design reveal the potential for a new generation of people to recontextualize their use in a way that moves beyond 'the social', as they utilise sensors and data capturing and sharing functionalities in new mobile devices to augment their 'social butterfly' identity with an ideology of a 'socially conscious urban citizen'.
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