In today's fast-moving and interconnected world, we can hardly imagine a day without a Smartphone. The latest data reveal that there are over 6 billion smartphone users around the world, representing 66% of the global population. But, do we really know what a smartphone is, or what its consequences are for people's lives across the globe? To find out 11 anthropologists (Daniel Miller, Laila Abed Rabho, Patrick Awondo, Maya de Vries, Marília Duque, Pauline Garvey, Laura Haapio-Kirk, Charlotte Hawkins, Alfonso Otaegui, Shireen Walton, and Xinyuan Wang) each spent 16 months living in communities in Africa, Asia, Europe and South America, participating in the daily lives of people living there and focusing on the adoption of smartphones by older people. Based on their findings, UCL press has published this book entitled "The Global Smartphone: Beyond a youth technology". Their research discloses that smartphones are a technology for everyone, not just for the young people.
The book presents a series of original perspectives deriving from a comparative research project on the ways that people use smartphones. The authors show how the smartphone is more than an 'app device' and explore differences between what people say about smartphones and how they use them. The smartphone is unprecedented in the degree to which the user can transform it. It follows that in order to comprehend it, we must take into consideration a range of national and cultural nuances, such as visual communication in China and Japan, mobile money in Cameroon and Uganda, and access to health information in Chile and Ireland-all alongside diverse trajectories of aging in Al Quds, Brazil, and Italy.
The book contains nine chapters. The introductory chapter begins with a brief discussion of what the smartphone is not. The authors think that the term 'smartphone' itself is somewhat misleading. To understand this device we need to reconsider the terms 'smart' and 'phone'. This publication is based on a totally different concept of smart, for which the authors have borrowed the phrase 'smart from below'. Chapter-2 focuses on what people say about smartphones. People's opinion is full of contradictions - an ambivalence that reflects the way in which smartphones mostly create benefits and problems simultaneously. The third chapter of the book explores the smartphone in context. This chapter helps us to understand how smartphones have an impact as material objects. Their value may be used to express status or expose us to theft. Their costs may be a significant burden for people with low incomes. Chapter-4 states that to know a smartphone and its user properly involves going through every single app on that smartphone and finding out whether it is used and how it is used.
The fifth chapter of the book sheds light on 'Perpetual Opportunism' which refers to the smartphone being always available and the ways in which this changes people's relationship to the world around them. While chapter six draws our attention towards crafting, chapter-7 discusses about ageing and smartphones. The eighth chapter examines the heart of the smartphone - LINE, WeChat and WhatsApp. These apps may become so dominant that users view smartphones essentially as devices for gaining access to these platforms. The book concludes with general and theoretical reflections (Chapter-9). In this chapter, the authors put greater emphasis on the consequences of smartphones for people. Ultimately, as anthropologists, they are less interested in technology per se - the question of what a smartphone is - than in using studies of such devices to throw light on individuals, society and culture with the goal of furthering our understanding of humanity.
The writer is an independent researcher. E-mail: [email protected]
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