Personal, Portable, Pedestrian
Mobile Phones in Japanese Life
372 pp., 7 x 9 in, 55 illus.
- Published: September 8, 2006
- Publisher: The MIT Press
- Published: July 22, 2005
- Publisher: The MIT Press
How mobile communications in Japan became a pervasively personal tool that connects families and friends, creating "always-on" social engagement.
The Japanese term for mobile phone, keitai (roughly translated as "something you carry with you"), evokes not technical capability or freedom of movement but intimacy and portability, defining a personal accessory that allows constant social connection. Japan's enthusiastic engagement with mobile technology has become—along with anime, manga, and sushi—part of its trendsetting popular culture. Personal, Portable, Pedestrian, the first book-length English-language treatment of mobile communication use in Japan, covers the transformation of keitai from business tool to personal device for communication and play. The essays in this groundbreaking collection document the emergence, incorporation, and domestication of mobile communications in a wide range of social practices and institutions. The book first considers the social, cultural, and historical context of keitai development, including its beginnings in youth pager use in the early 1990s. It then discusses the virtually seamless integration of keitai use into everyday life, contrasting it to the more escapist character of Internet use on the PC. Other essays suggest that the use of mobile communication reinforces ties between close friends and family, producing "tele-cocooning" by tight-knit social groups. The book also discusses mobile phone manners and examines keitai use by copier technicians, multitasking housewives, and school children. Personal, Portable, Pedestrian describes a mobile universe in which networked relations are a pervasive and persistent fixture of everyday life.
Geert Lovink taught me how to think critically about technology, and I always turn to him for thoughtful and humane analysis. Too few technology writers have any sense of social and cultural context, and too few technology critics have an appreciation of why people find technologies attractive and how they improve people's lives. I recommend Dark Fiber to those who haven't yet learned to think critically about Internet technology and the culture that has grown up around it, and to those critics who fail to see the real advantages afforded by the Internet.
Howard Rheingold, author of The Virtual Community and Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution
This is an important book. Through a range of well designed and intelligently contextualized case studies, it both locates and dislocates common assumptions about the singularities of technology and of culture in determining how the 'keitai' is finding its place in Japanese society. Reaching beyond Japan and beyond the mobile phone, the book provides a theortetically rich and empirically sophisticated template for all future work which seeks to understand the nature of sociotechnical change in personal communications.
Roger Silverstone, Professor of Media and Communications, London School of Economics and Political Science
Lead users play a key role in determining the fate of both technological and industrial development in the digital era. The only way we can fully understand the astonishing development of 'keitai' services is through a multi-perspective analysis of Japan's youth, the cutting-edge lead users of mobile technology. This book is critical to thinking about technological advancement in the 21st century.
Ichiya Nakamura, Executive Director, Stanford Japan Center