DGV05: cyberanthropology going mobile

anthropological perspectives on mobile communication
by Castulus Kolo

Parallel to the diffusion of the Internet’s utilisation the mobile phone as a means of communication has spread all over the world even faster, and still unhampered. Diverse Internet services meanwhile have established themselves in the focus of social and cultural academic disciplines—even different currents of research are noticeable, like e.g. cyberanthropology. Yet mobile communication has been widely neglected—at least in the German-speaking part of academia.

Seen from a sociocultural anthropological vantage point not the technology itself is especially interesting, but the charging of the end devices with cultural meaning, and the appropriation of this global technology within local contexts. The integration of mobile services into everyday life does not stop cold in front of patterns of acting and meaning. This is in particular true for the creation and maintenance of social relationships, and also for the stance towards space, time, and physicalness. On the other hand the structure of virtue is not solely directed from the technological artefact towards the user. Quite to the contrary, the users are an essential element of the development of new services and applications.

By using examples like SMS-communication and mobile gaming the presentation at first aims to make clear the specifica of mobile communication compared to PC-based communication. Based on that links between sociocultural academical approaches and the formation, adoption, and diffusion of information and communication technologies will be discussed. Finally phenomena of mobile communication will be presented, which seem prone to be grasped by anthropological perspectives and ethnographical methods.

Abstract of a presentation to be held at the workshop ‘cyberanthropology’ during the Conference of the German Anthropological Association (GAA aka DGV) – Halle / Saale, 4th – 7th October 2005.
translation of the German abstract by zeph—put the blame on me