Media Artifact Exercise

For this exercise, I was experiencing difficulty selecting a specific artifact from the list of examples Dr. De Vries provides.  However, out of this minor frustration, I discovered a way to analyze and explore the entirety of artifacts by focusing on one: the cellular phone. This artifact today, with the development of Smart Phones, is an all-in-one device functioning as an extension of the hands of 21st century human beings.
Although there is no concrete definition of a Smart Phone, Dave Packham of the University of Utah defines it as “a phone that runs complete operating system software providing a standardized interface and platform for application developers”(2009).  In an attempt to provide this definition with clarity, he explains  that a Smart Phone is “simply a phone with advanced features like e-mail and Internet capabilities, and/or a full keyboard. In other words, it is a miniature computer that has phone capability”(2009).  The cell phone has been engulfed by computer technology and transformed from a mobile telephone used to make calls to a fact-checking, internet-browsing, game-playing, social-networking, all-inclusive communication machine with the ability to be a phone.  In this sense, the phone has assimilated into the computer yet still able to maintain its basic characteristics while satisfying the needs of powerful computer culture in America and other places around the world.
As a result of the cell phone’s affordability, Professor James Katz of Rutgers University explains that “statistics indicate that two billion people currently have subscriptions for cellular phones . . . Enough phones for one-third of the worlds population.  In fact there are some countries with more cell phones than people”(2005).  This excerpt was withdrawn from a forum on Cell Phone Culture at MIT in 2005 and I suggest that this number has grown in the four years passed.  Katz further submits that “Unlike the internet, which has sparked fears of the “digital divide” between industrialized and developing worlds, cell phones have become popular all over the world. The cell phone is portrayed as glamorous, but also inexpensive”(2005).   With the development of Smart Phones, with internet capability, individuals in developing nations can purchase phones and have access to the web, creating less of a “digital divide.”  In this sense, the internet reaches more people through cell phone use that were previously disconnected to the internet.  The Smart Phone is seen as a familiar medium in which to access the unfamiliar (internet, email, digital society).

These Smart Phones are changing public culture and allow individuals to develop micro-societies in which to reside.  In a large crowd, an individual can place headphones in their ears and watch an episode of the Office.  While walking from work to the gym, you can update your Facebook page and check your email.  Although Smart Phones afford less social individuals a less threatening medium in which to socialize, I fear these Smart Phones will create too many private “micro-cultures.”

Personally, I just received a free (with 2 year contract renewal) Samsung Impression Smart Phone.  It has a full touch screen, internet access, full keyboard, multiple applications, camera and camcorder, etc.  It is like the “Iphone for people who don’t want Iphone phone.”  Previously, I had always accepted friend’s hand-me-downs, claiming “I don’t want a new phone.  I would probably just break it.  Besides, I am not cool enough for a phone like that.” However, this phone has greatly effected my routine, positively and negatively.
To develop a more thorough understanding of the role this Media Artifact plays in my life, I will outline my daily routine.  As a result of the variation of my daily routine, I will provide a schedule in which my phone is heavily present.   My day begins as I wake up to an Alarm Clock programmed and sounded from my phone, with a song downloaded off of the internet from my phone. In order to check my email, which I do every morning, I consult my phone if I am too tired to rise from my bed.  The internet option allows me to check my email and log on to social networking sights such as Facebook.  I can then respond to emails and messages from friends directly from my phone.  I am always curious about the weather and use my Smart Phone to check it every morning as well.  As my day progresses, I send and receive multiple text messages (at least 20-40 a day), while walking, driving, or stagnate, and make a few calls.  In my down time, I catch myself exploring the internet, playing games, listening to music, and developing a better understanding of the “phone” itself.  Before I am “off to the land of nod,” I set my alarm clock, relying on my phone once more to rise me in the morning so that I am able to wake up and do it all over again,  My phone battery is always charged and rarely do I allow it to “die”.  Besides my girlfriend, it is the first thing I see when I wake up and the last before I fall asleep.  The amount of time I spend using my phone for its original concept (i.e. making calls), is very small in comparison to time spent utilizing its other features.  In fact, I would argue that “making calls” is slowly becoming a trivial feature of Smart Phones.

I think phones are important.  They allow you to communicate with people around the world.  I use mine to speak with my best friend in South Korea.  Phones are also very useful in emergency situations and have undoubtedly saved many, many lives.  Although I  often sound skeptical with regards to technology and our heavy reliance upon it, it is not my goal to disrespect and illegitimatize cell phones entirely.  However, I do find it utterly important to question and analyze their effect on our lives.  Lives that began before mobile phones were in existence.  I would like to conclude examining a final aspect of cell phones in our culture.  The state of California has made it illegal to speak on a mobile phone when driving.  However, people are still talking while driving.  There are not many instances in which moral-driven individuals break the law.  This law is steadily becoming broken on the level of speeding . . .Not that cell-phones criminalize us, all I am saying is that we advance with an extremely cautious mind.

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