The social geometry of mobile telephony
Mobile telephone technologies seem to be everywhere having profound effects on the nature of communication. They are being celebrated for the creativity of new mobile languages that have and are being generated and for emancipating communication from fixed points in space. But behind this lies a central paradox – mobile phones are ubiquitous and bodily intimate technologies but, at the same time, the public seems particularly fearful of any spatial proximity to mobile phone masts. Such fears are generally understood in terms of 'risk perception', an irrational consequence of media hype, faulty cognitive processing, or communication failure. This merely psychologises what is a deeply spatial paradox. The routine 'nomadic intimacy' of mobile phone usage establishes place as a mere backdrop to being always 'on-call', too absorbed in the 'busy-ness' of everyday life to notice what is close at hand. In contrast, 'place intimacy' becomes evident when public protest over the unwanted intrusion of phone masts helps refashion familiar places as meaningful, safe and worth protecting. Reaction to the unwanted intrusion of phone masts helps to refashion familiar places as meaningful, safe and worth protecting. In contrast, the routine nomadic intimacy of mobile phones establishes place as an indifferent backdrop to being always 'on-call', too absorbed in the 'busy-ness' of life to notice what is close at hand. In this respect, and contrary to the celebration of mobile telephony as a liberatory technology it may also be deepening the disenchantment with modern life.
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