Saturday, April 10, 2004

I just had some thoughts on David Wilcox's Ten conversation starters on community tech, or rather more specifically, point 7:

Consumer trends are towards personal, mobile, creative devices that enable people to build their personal, family, work and leisure networks - and be a bit different. Communication is wherever you are, not on the desktop. personal devices enhance people's networking capacity.

At first, I nodded in agreement, but now I'm not sure this is so true, or at least not looking at it the right way. Yes, there's a rise in "mobile" devices, but:

  1. The main reason for the success of the mobile phone (the only truly interpersonal-communicative-mobile device) is that telephones themselves are so all-pervasive already - but their main limitation was that they had to be kept in one place. So in that sense, I agree with the final sentence above.

  2. But are mobile devices changing the landscape in any other way? A laptop is simply an extension of a desktop. A PDA is simply a filofax you can turn on and off.

  3. Similarly, the advanced "features" of phones seem to be centred around sales, and attraction between product and individual, rather than any kind of networking progress. The most exciting thing around mobile phones these days is, apparently, how to come up with a new business model to sell people ring-tones. Woo. I have yet to think of a reason why streaming video will offer anything substantially new either. Answers on a postcard.
    The one possible exception to this is Bluetooth. Why? Because it's free to use, has immediate feedback, and doesn't try to do more than the context of th device allows.

  4. Question: Are "traditional" mobile networks completely and utterly restricted by their centralised mechanism? Is all hope of any real progress around the existing mobile market killed off by the technology being controlled in the same way as television, rather than the internet? None of the three (four, if you include landlines) have meshed at all yet - a result of how phones and TV are controlled, perhaps?

So, are we wrong to see personalised devices as a "new wave" of customised, distributed networking nodes? Does the rise of personal computing represent a dead-end, corporate-backed, top-down control scheme?

Scribe, he say yes.

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