Mobile Communications: An Introduction to New Media

November 4, 2010

Authors: Nicola Green and Leslie Haddon

Edition: First

Publisher: A&C Black/Berg

Pages: 190

Price: £55.00 and £16.99

ISBN 9781845208134 and 8141

Mobile communication technologies have transformed human experience - for the better, some would say. Although it isn't a work of mere enthusiasm, Nicola Green and Leslie Haddon's volume in the Berg New Media series is part of this optimistic assessment.

In a well-organised survey, Green and Haddon work through the history of the mobile phone (taking account of recent developments that have made the telephone itself seem like an add-on) and the effects of this technology on our conceptions of space, time, the public and the private. The theoretical framework - used, wisely, as a guide rather than a strident catch-all - is the model of the cultural circuit of production, regulation, representation, consumption and social identity formation that was pioneered in the 1997 book Doing Cultural Studies: The Story of the Sony Walkman by Paul du Gay et al.

The main text is illustrated by short case studies drawn from research conducted all over the world, with Asia particularly well represented. Each chapter is summarised effectively; there is an annotated bibliography, as well as a more extensive list of references to the plethora of research papers the authors have drawn on. There is a concluding section of exercises, based on each chapter, for the student reader.

Along the way there are insights that will repay anyone already familiar with the literature. The discussion of the "management of availability" builds on the authors' careful presentation of debates about public/private space and the mobile's paradoxical effects on the ordering of time in an age of apparent time-poverty. There is a persuasive chapter on power relations, such as those between parents and children, and in the workplace.

Why then do I characterise this as an "optimistic" overview? Partly because the technology is not described mechanically or economically. Its effects are therefore magical, in the simple sense of - always - simply working. Well, in my part of west Dorset, most days I can't even get a signal. Similarly, the industry just seems to provide what people want; if it doesn't, cultures will adapt mobiles to their own uses, so these mass products turn out to be what people wanted anyway.

As the authors say in a glance at possible futures, mobile devices are, among other things, portable televisions - but despite the importance of "representation" in the cultural circuit, they don't discuss film and television. Surely the place of the mobile in the glorious techno-paranoia-fest that was the television series 24 is worth a mention?

And finally, where is higher education? Are mobile ICTs already transforming, or going to transform, the academy? I think we should have been told.

Who is it for? Undergraduate students in media, communications, cultural studies and sociology.

Presentation: Clear, well organised and illustrated, with a very good bibliography.

Would you recommend it? It will be of use to a very wide range of students studying any aspect of technological and cultural change.

Highly recommended

The Internet

Author: Lelia Green

Edition: First

Publisher: A&C Black/Berg

Pages: 246

Price: £55.00 and £17.99

ISBN 9781847882981 and 2998

Recommended

The Hollywood Film Music Reader

Editor: Mervyn Cooke

Edition: First

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Pages: 384

Price: £65.00 and £22.50

ISBN 9780195331189 and 1196

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