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friday :: august 26, 2005
keitai internet: territory machines

In contrast to 'the cellular phone' of the US (defined by technical infrastructure), and 'the mobile' of the UK (defined by the untethering from fixed location), the Japanese term, 'keitai' (roughly translated, 'something you carry with you'), references a somewhat different set of dimensions. A keitai is not so much about a new technical capability or freedom of motion, but about a snug and intimate technosocial tethering, a personal device supporting communications that are a constant, lightweight, and mundane presence in everyday life.

The development of keitai uses and cultures is a complex alchemy of technological, social, cultural, economic, and historical factors that make it difficult to transplant wholesale.

Current social and cultural study of mobile phone use is reminiscent of the state of the study of the Internet ten years ago. Many researchers have moved from Internet studies to mobile communication studies.

Unlike the Internet, where the US has dominated both development and adoption trends, contemporary mobile communications have been driven forward most prominently by Asian and European countries, upsetting the geopolitics of information technology advancement. This disruption of the status-quo, combined with the diversity in implementation of mobile communications infrastructures, has meant that wireless technology, from the start, has been seen as located in specific social, cultural, and historical contexts, rather than seen as a cross-culturally universal solution (as Internet protocols are often cast as).

We critique a pervasive assumption that society and culture are irreducibly variable but technologies are universal. These approaches posit that technologies are both constructive of and constructed by historical, social and cultural contexts, arguing against the analytic separation of the social and technical.

Keitai was a business oriented technology that was hijacked by popular youth consumer cultures in the late nineties.

The social life of the keitai resonates with research traditions in computer science of 'pervasive' or 'ubiquitous computing' which have argued for a model of computing more seamlessly integrated with a range of physical objects, locations, and architectures. In many ways, contemporary keitai usage is an instantiation of these visions of computation as it has migrated away from the desktop and into more and more settings of everyday life. Yet the contemporary keitai usage differs substantially from many of the visions of sensors, smart appliances, and tangible interfaces that characterize the field of ubiquitous computing. What the work in this volume demonstrates is that 'ubiquitous computing' might best be conceptualized not as a constellation of technical features, but as sociotechnical practices of using and engaging with information technologies in an ongoing, lightweight, and pervasive way. >from *Personal, Portable, Pedestrian: Mobile Phones in Japanese Life.* Edited by Mizuko Ito, Daisuke Okabe, and Misa Matsuda. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2005

related context
datacities: sensity. may 13, 2005
> grafedia: hyperlinks for the urban landscape. february 18, 2005
> plan: pervasive and locative arts network. january 28, 2005
> the sensor revolution. march 2, 2004
> a decade in the development of mobile communications in japan. august 4, 2003
> flow: the design challenge of pervasive computing. november 6, 2002
> smart mobs. new uses of mobile media. october 3, 2002

japanese ironman impressed by the full potential of keitai

sonic flow
my territorial machine [stream]
my territorial machine [download]

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