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1 - Introduction: framing the issues

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 September 2009

James E. Katz
Affiliation:
Professor of Communication Rutgers University
Mark A. Aakhus
Affiliation:
Assistant Professor of Communication Rutgers University
James E. Katz
Affiliation:
Rutgers University, New Jersey
Mark Aakhus
Affiliation:
Rutgers University, New Jersey
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Summary

Greater than gods

With the invention of the telephone in 1876, it was possible for the first time in history to have real-time conversational interaction at a distance. Back then, the technology was astounding. Early demonstrations of its capability attracted large crowds, most of whom were awe-struck, though some thought it mere legerdemain. By contrast, in the twenty-first century the telephone has for a billion people become, literally, a fixture of everyday life. Only by its absence do we deem it worthy of comment (such as in school classrooms and prisons or in poor countries). The miracle of telephone conversation is too readily forgotten by laypeople and scholars alike. However, the telephone's becoming mobile has re-familiarized many people with the amazement felt by its early witnesses. The exquisite value of the telephone can best be appreciated if one considers the plight of a villager who wants to know if there might be work available in a nearby town, or who needs to summon aid for a sick family member.

Over the years, the telephone has dramatically changed how people live their lives and see their world. Another change of perhaps similar magnitude is in the offing with the mobilization not only of speech but also of a novel array of computer-supported communication and social interaction. Bursty chip-to-chip chats will arrange everything from grocery deliveries to a blind date between two co-located individuals of matching interest profiles. But even today's powers of the mobile phone are extraordinary.

Type
Chapter
Information
Perpetual Contact
Mobile Communication, Private Talk, Public Performance
, pp. 1 - 14
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2002

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References

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Lycett, John E., and Dunbar, Robin I. M. (2000). “Mobile Phones as Lekking Devices among Human Males.”Human Nature 11(1): 93–104CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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