[OPE-L] Leopoldina Fortunati on the meaning of the mobile phone

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Wed Mar 15 2006 - 09:31:20 EST

Information Systems Department, LSE is proud to announce that as part of the
ICTs in the Contemporary World: information, management and culture

Leopoldina Fortunati
University of Udine, Italy
April 10th, 2006.

Department of Information Systems in Studio Ciborra, 5th floor, Tower One

Discussing the Meaning of the Mobile Phone

This decade of research on the mobile phone has been very important in
explaining its social co-construction and its subversive and regressive
potential at the level of interpersonal, social and business relations.
Its identity as an information and communication technology has been
widely explored and it has turned out to be particularly ambivalent
(attractive/unattractive), but also highly changeable (with rapid shifts
from mobile to personal technology, from oral technology to written) and,
in part, dissimulative. In fact, the mobile is a device that is only in
part communicative, as owing to its costs it allows only rapid exchanges
or otherwise written messages, these also very short. Looking at the
mobile phone as a technological artefact, its body results largely the
fruit of  unexpected and innovative behaviour on the part of users.

The limit to this decade of research is that the research has remained so
far at the descriptive level. Despite the greater part of empirical
studies of this device being focused on its diffusion, use, and
consumption in the domestic sphere, they have generally not been connected
with any of the theoretical analysis of the domestic sphere which has been
carried out in the last decades.
I wish to connect the analysis of the role of the mobile phone to this
theoretical analysis, which will  enable us to better understand that the
mobile phone is a work tool for reproduction, that is, a machine used
within the social process governing everyday life. People have certainly
used the mobile phone to connect the world of work better with that of the
family, by rationalizing organization here and there to their advantage,
which means saving time, money and fatigue. But if we see it as a work
tool, we will discover that its widespread use has taken on other
dimensions. In fact it has had at the same time the effect of making
people both in offices and factories and in the domestic sphere more
productive, penetrating through the very pores of the working day of men,
women, youth and children, sweeping away much rigidity and inertia, and
eliminating many of those shadow areas in which people disappeared to
"take a breather" as it were, thus avoiding the continuity of command and
control by the organization of work or family and, in general, social
networks. The widespread use of the mobile phone has had the unexpected
effect of depriving workers, and people in general, both of the numerous
times and spaces of social disconnection and the thousand defence
strategies which counted on this disconnection.

The mobile phone has become part, on one hand, of the great phenomenon of
the 20th century that goes under the name of mechanization of daily life,
on the other hand it has become a very important part of the development
of the artificialisation of the body. In the extended family of electronic
media, the mobile phone is distinguished from other media, because it has
started to approach and penetrate the human body. But, remaining with the
body, it has in its turn entered into the system of languages which insist
on the body itself, among which fashion. The mobile has gradually acquired
the status of an object of fashion, is now considered an accessory, and is
increasingly forming an integral part of an individual's look, of that
absolutely unnatural territory that encloses the material nature of the
body and the cultural modernity of fashion. This is why it has also become
an important "vehicle" of presentation of the self.

Leopoldina Fortunati teaches Sociology of Communication and Sociology of
Cultural Processes at the Faculty of Education of the University of Udine,
Italy. She has conducted extensive research in the field of gender
studies, cultural processes and communication and information
technologies. She is the author of several books, for example, The Arcane
of Reproduction (Autonomedia, 1995), I mostri nell'immaginario (Angeli,
1995) and is the editor of Gli Italiani al telefono (Angeli, 1995) and
Telecomunicando in Europa (1998), and with J. Katz and R. Riccini
Mediating the Human Body. Technology, Communication and Fashion (2003).
She has published many articles in journals such as "The Information
Society", "Information, Communication, Society", "Réseaux", "Trends in
communication", "Revista de Estudios de Juventud," "Widerspruche",
"Personal and Ubiquitous computing", "Gazette. The International Journal
for Communication Studies", "Sociologia dell'informazione", "Problemi
dell'informazione". She is associate editor of the journal The Information
Society, is in the advisory board of the journal New Media and Society,
and serves as referee for the journal Communication, Information, Society
and Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour. She represents Italy in
the COST Technical Committee for Social Sciences and Humanities and in the
action COST A20 "The Impact of Internet on the Mass Media in Europe". She
was part of the European research project SIGIS "Strategies of Inclusion:
Gender and the Information Society" and of COST248 "The Future European
Telecommunications User" and she was the vice-chairperson of COST269 "User
Aspects of ICTs". She is the co-chair of the International Association
"The Society for the Social Study of Mobile Communication" (SSSMC) which
intends to facilitate the international advancement of cross-disciplinary
mobile communication studies. She organised several international
workshops and conferences. Her works have been published in nine
languages: Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean,
Russian, Spanish.

No pre-booking but space is limited so first come, first seated.

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