No contemporary cultural artifact embodies the genius and the disruptive excess
of capitalism as clearly as the cell phone. Ubiquitous in most developed societies
in Europe, the Americas and Asia, the cell phone has become a laboratory
some would say an asylum for testing the limits of technological convergence.
Less a telephone today than a multi-purpose computer, cell phones are game
consoles, still cameras, email systems, text messengers, carriers of entertainment
and business data, nodes of commerce. Particular age cohorts and subcultures
have begun to appropriate cell phones for idiosyncratic uses that help to define
their niche or social identity. This Forum will examine the cell phone as a technological
object and as a cultural form whose uses and meaning are increasingly various, an
artifact uniquely of our time that is enacting, to borrow the words of a contemporary
novelist, "a ceaseless spectacle of transition."
James Katz is professor of communication and director of Rutgers University's Center for Mobile Communications Studies
Jing Wang is professor of Chinese cultural studies, and the head of Foreign Languages & Literatures at MIT.
Added by Hybernaut on November 9, 2005