Mobile Technology, the Middle-man in Human Interaction

Using stereotypical examples, Ling and Donner help us understand the varying degrees in which mobile technology has and can affect our lives. No longer being tied to a location, the ability to reach a person when they are out and about changes the way we interact and live. In Schwartzman and Parikh’s paper Establishing Relationship for Designing Rural Information Systems they analyze an alternative way mobile technology is changing lives in a developing country. Mobile technology helps people join the global market, even if it’s to be on the level with their own community and social needs.

One thing not mentioned in Ling and Donner’s examples are the negative ways mobile technology can affect a changing social structure. Much is mentioned about the feeling of security and connectedness, but none on the affects of relying on a device to be the middle-man in human interaction. In the example of Alberto, the Italian businessman, he is connected 24/7 with his phone and is always in touch with work, family and friends. In result he is “mesmerized by technology” and likely unable to function without it.

In Schwartzman and Parikh’s paper, we see the opposite effect. The development of a system has enabled a small coffee company to become more efficient. Although, if this coffee producing city in Guatemala becomes dependant on this technology to run a profitable and sustainable company, what will happen if the infrastructure that coddles the technology  disappears, or support is focused elsewhere? Is there an assumption this coffee company will be strong enough to make enhancements and fix the infrastructure?

Bringing technology to developing countries and showing people how to use it effectively is great, but I think organizations also need to consider the effects of this technology should something change. It is quite likely that a developing country could emerge as strong and then struggle with the social implications as older generations are still steady in former traditions. There are many varying degrees in which mobile technology can affect our lives, but we shouldn’t be blind and think they are all good.

Establishing Relationship for Designing Rural Information Systems: Schwartzman and Parikh
Mobile Communication: Ling and Donner


2 thoughts on “Mobile Technology, the Middle-man in Human Interaction

  1. Dear Michelle,

    Thanks for your piece. I think your point about change and an individual, community, or organization’s ability to deal with it is important–because while as you say, technology can encounter a break in the system and disappear, I would argue that more than that, technology is ever-changing, so regardless, entities that rely on it will have to be flexible and adapt accordingly.

    While it’s true that much of the first half of Ling and Donner is somewhat starry-eyed about mobile technology, the latter chapters do question the impact of this widespread penetration–whether in the developing world or the west.

    My feeling is that digital media anywhere has attendant challenges and opportunities. Sure, the issues may vary country to country, but the introduction and adoption will always impact social norms. What we hope for in more constrained economies is that they will help to build new economic opportunities as well as better governance, but forward-thinking regulations will also have to be part of that equation.


  2. Pingback: Mobile Technology, the Middle-man in Human Interaction « Little … | Guatemala Today

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