From an afternoon session on mobile and pervasive social computing.
Rich Ling suggests that mobile computing or communication creates social cohesion better than other computer-mediated communication. I don’t really buy that, for a variety of reasons. Perhaps partly because I don’t think it’s more or less, it’s different kinds of sociality that we’re talking about.
Dina Mehta talks about mobile phone usage in India. She observes that mobile phones are the primary gate to the Internet for many, which is one of the issues about mobile usage that really unnerves me. It absolutely is not the way I think about mobile technology: cellular usage is something I came to very late, and it’s a profoundly specialized technology in my own usage. The US market in general had slower penetration than elsewhere in the world. She pointed out something important: it’s a gateway in India because it’s the cheapest way to access the Internet, just as US local phone rates were an important precondition of Internet access through modems and then broadband here. But the consequences are non-trivial: there is just a big difference between what you can deliver over a desktop or laptop on one hand and a mobile phone on the other. I don’t think I’m just wedded to my own usage habits: I think there are reasons to prefer delivery of the Internet over computers as opposed to mobile phones.
Daniel Pargman speaks to pervasive, location-based games. I’m definitely convinced, despite my earlier skepticism about some mobile computing or communication, that this is a huge area of potential innovation, especially for massively multiplayer-style games.
Cathy Beaton makes a really powerful presentation on the ways that mobile technologies in classrooms have powerful levelling effects for students and teachers with varying ability, talents and/or disabilities.
Howard Rheingold focuses on the issues we were talking about at lunch, the use of wireless technologies in classrooms. He observes on the side that universities seem to have meetings about everything (welcome to the Terrordome, Howard) but that oddly, something that has a huge impact on instruction (the installation of wireless in classroom buildings) just sort of seems to have happened without meetings where he is, and I suspect similarly without meetings at many universities and colleges. He also talks about the use of mobile computing to coordinate collective action problems in novel ways, a familiar but important topic that is one of my favorite things to just sit around and speculate about.