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Solitary Mobility vs Mobile Sociality Redux

File this under "Yet Another iPhone Lover". I think the iPhone rocks, and I haven't even seen it yet.

A while back I wrote about "Solitary Mobility vs. Mobile Sociality". Ipod_ad2The premise was that on the one hand, with an iPod or other MP3 player, you create "solitary mobility" because you signal other people via your headphones that you are shielding yourself acoustically from them and into your own sound bubble.

Of course, iPods may be used in a social context as well, as a "social object". And there's Zune's tagline of "Welcome to the Social" (via Community Guy):


But sharing music on iPods isn't all that easy. Also, according to Gizmodo, 42% of the songs people are trying to share on Zune are on the "Zune sharing prohibited" list. My guess is that these would be the songs people are most trying to share anyway. So much for that idea and the primary function of MP3 players is still about solitary mobility.

With a mobile phone, on the other hand, you achieve "mobile sociality" because the phone is by definition meant for communication, a social activity. The idea was to say that given a choice of taking either the iPod or the mobile phone when you walk out the door, most would choose the mobile phone because it allowed you to stay in contact with others, through voice, SMS, e-mail, etc. For instance, according to Martin Parr:

There is no escaping this modern phenomenon [of people talking on mobile phones] and my relationship is one of "I couldn't survive without it" but what a pain in the arse they are.

With hybrid mp3-phones, you have both mobile sociality and solitary mobility. Quoting from David Byrne's Journal:

An ad for a cell phone with speakers that slide out. A crowded city street. Everyone is wearing white iPod headphones and clear fishbowls on their heads. They are all isolated in a world of their own, is the clear implication. One couple tries to smooch through their glass prisons — but everyone knows you can’t kiss with a fishbowl on your head. One guy, clearly frustrated, takes off his space helmet/fishbowl and smashes it into a million pieces on the street. He rips out his headphones and begins listening to music from a small object he proudly holds aloft. A cell phone with tiny speakers that slip out. (I can imagine the sound quality! Freedom! A 1962 transistor radio!) Immediately all the other young hipsters take off their helmets and rip off their iPod headphones and are grooving to this guy’s tunes! The world, it is implied, has been liberated by a new gizmo and an early adopter. Bring back boom boxes on the subways!

Enter the iPhone: iPod+phone+internet all_in_one_device. No more choosing between mobile sociality or solitary mobility. And we all knew the iPhone was coming, didn't we?

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January 24, 2007 in Mobile & Wireless | Permalink


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