Global Mobile Technoculture - Slides

For Qwest and NYU Global Communications Class
February 2004

make it yours


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In the Tokyu Hands stationary section, a small display promotes pens that can be used to scribble on mobile phones. A sample phone for test scribbling is provided! The phone is not a tech gadget to be revered, but a personal item to be beautified. (September 2003)

Seoul Mobile, Fall 2003
Also at Samsung, the "Ladies Phone" (the SGH-T500) on display between the watch phone and the limited edition Matrix phone. Encrusted with zirconium and pushed firmly towards mobile, active women, the phone is loaded with gendered applications: "Calorie calculator, menstruation, bio-rhythm, mirror." It's always interesting to see how mainstream products are repositioned for niche markets. I'm not sure if this would be a success in the West (or East for that matter) - are women accustomed to updating their devices on their menstrual cycle? I wonder what a dedicated series of mobile male personal upkeep applications might be.

fall 2003 mobile phone Japan gallery
Shoppers in Tokyo's Harajuku district known for its teen fashions can find new outer wear for their mobile phones. This stand on the side of Takeshita Dori sells full-on phone make-overs. Buy one of these plastic sheaths and a young man will shrink wrap the design around your phone, trimming off the excess plastic around the edges and revealing the phone logo if you prefer. (September 2003)

fall 2003 mobile phone Japan gallery
Close up view of some of the elaborate phone cover designs. You think Disney licensed that mobile phone sheath? (September 2003)
youth technology culture 2002-2004
Phone painting service - a choice between having a lens-flared rose painted on your phone, or a lens-flared scorpion. With little glittering pieces of plastic stuck on for accents. (October 2003)
youth technology culture 2002-2004
Pick any digital image. These folks in Seoul will print it out, and shrink-wrap it around your mobile device. Pictured here: Bill Murray on my Japanese mobile phone, fried chicken on my GameBoy. (October 2003)

Seoul Mobile, Fall 2003
In the trainstation at Gangbyeon, a table full of used phone charms for sale. Seeing all the little animals and robots and religious symbols and good luck charms, baubles in piles, scuffed and dirty, was a sort of sobering moment in the midst of all this neon note-taking. I wondered briefly, were these charms reclaimed where they'd fallen in the subways and on the sidewalks? Were they snatched, perhaps with a pair of scissors, and then restrung for sale cheap? Or were they sold by people who no longer found personal meaning in that particular charm or totem?

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What is this mess of wires, a screen, brightly colored text and scissors? (September 2003)

fall 2003 mobile phone Japan gallery
Why it's a Mobile Photo Print Station! In Shibuya, hook a cable up to your mobile phone and print out a few of your favorite camera phone pictures. That sounds pretty handy - I have two unanswered questions: do they come out as stickers? Probably, since stickers are provided. And, would it be easier just to be able to email your photos to the machine instead? Maybe not considering dialing and packet fees. (September 2003)
youth technology culture 2002-2004
"Sticker photo in new paradigm photoclick internet photo service" Like a similar machine I saw in Tokyo, this PhotoClick kiosk allows you to plug in your mobile phone to download and print stickers based on pictures you have taken with your mobile phone camera. (October 2003)
youth technology culture 2002-2004
The UPrint machine seems to one-up the PhotoClick - the UPrint machine is simply a remote printer. You can print to it from the web, or from your mobile device. Each printer has a unique identifier (this machine is number 3426) - you send your document to that printer over the internet and you are charged accordingly. I wish there had been one of these printers in the lobby of my hotel! I would have printed out maps and directions aplenty. (October 2003)

what to do

youth technology culture 2002-2004
Use a phone to drive a tiny RC car. (September 2003)
youth technology culture 2002-2004
Use a phone to drive a tiny RC tank, which can play shooting games with other RC tanks. (September 2003)
fall 2003 mobile phone Japan gallery
Use your mobile phone to track suspects at this i-mode site. Near Roppongi, Tokyo, Japan (November 2001)

fall 2003 mobile phone Japan gallery
An ad on a subway car door for kekkon.com - "kekkon" is Japanese for marriage. According to Deborah Shamoon, a pop culture scholar based in Tokyo, the ad "says 'Find a husband on your mobile phone!' or literally 'marriage partner.' No one would ever say that in the US. Things like Yahoo personals use carefully neutral language--no one ever wants to mention the word marriage." (September 2003)

mind your manners


fall 2003 mobile phone Japan gallery
Mister Mobile says be curteous on the train! Turn off your phone if you're near the priority seats for the elderly and the infirm (so your phone won't interfere with pacemakers). And, put your phone on manner mode if you're anywhere else in the car. It's fun to be a giant walking mobile phone! And fun to be respectful of your fellow passengers too. (September 2003)

fall 2003 mobile phone Japan gallery
This man could be heard playing some kind of action game across the asile and a few seats away. Volume up! What would Mister Mobile say? (September 2003)

fall 2003 mobile phone Japan gallery
Reclaiming the phone booth -
Late Tuesday night in Tokyo's ritzy Ginza district, a woman has retreated into a phone booth to have some privacy and audibility for her mobile phone call. Even inside the booth, she's still covering her mouth when she talks. Force of habit I suppose. (September 2003)

Seoul Mobile, Fall 2003
An older woman crouches in the Seoul subway with her headset during a mobile phone call. (October 2003)

use value


Seoul Mobile, Fall 2003
At Platinum, one of the increasingly popular Microbreweries on the new side of Seoul, there was a large screen showing a concert. My host, researcher and writer Jean Kim, explained to me that the lines of text I saw popping up at the bottom of the screen were text messages from fans of whichever group was onscreen. I saw emoticons, hearts and kisses, and lots of fan adoration flowing by onscreen in a script I couldn't read. Sending a text message to the stars, to be viewed on television by the other fans - it would cost you about US$ .20.

Koreans have used the television to talk to one another before, through phones and in-person appearances: famously in 1983, when the Korean Broadcasting System began a campaign broadcasting information for families divided by the Korean war. What started off as a few folks trying to fing their families through the television turned into a massive national outpouring of grief and yearning. In a five month run, 100,000 people appeared on the air, and there were 10,180 reunions, according to KBS. What might have been possible with mobile internet technology?
youth technology culture 2002-2004 October 2003 - Jay Kim in Seoul can watch TV on his mobile phone. (October 2003)

Seoul Mobile, Fall 2003
I was in Korea in part to attend the World Cyber Games, a sort of Olympics for video gamers. I saw the best Halo player beat the second best Halo player. And I watched the gripping CounterStrike finals, where the Swedish Schroet Kommando team handed USA's Team 3D a decided defeat. Here, Abdisamad Mohamed (aka SpawN), one of the Swedish CS team players is using a mobile phone while being watched by a Swedish TV crew. They are filming him telling his Mom back home about his success in gaming, and probably telling her about his share of the US$ 40,000 cash prize. Look Mom! I'm on a mobile phone! From Seoul to Stockholm! On television!

Seoul Mobile, Fall 2003
An advertisement for a Casio mobile phone in Seoul with a camera shows a mobile phone on a tripod. It's a bit of a visual pun really, but how long until phone cameras are worth putting on a tripod for a good serious photo session? It seems silly to imagine maybe, unless you're in one-megapixel-plus phone camera country.

I have friends with a two-camera theory. You have a nice camera that you use for travel and special events. And you have a snapshot camera that you carry with you all the time. I don't like that theory much - all of life is a special event, and I always want to have my camera on hand. The sooner the "two cameras" converge, the better.

mie with phone
Mie Kennedy of TokyoTidBits holds up her Japanese mobile phone. With her boyfriend Dav she rigged up a system for posting JPG pictures, taken with her camera phone, from various locations in Tokyo. The location information was sent from the phone (equipped with a GPS) to MapQuest. So on her site there's a map showing where the photos were taken. (July 2003)
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