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Whole world(wideweb) in my hand(held device)


It’s one thing to say, as I frequently have, (though to my embarrassment not nearly enough in my Media Re:public papers), that handheld devices will be the computers and the internet platforms of most of the world and that everyone doing something with media (or, in fact, anything at all that involves information) in any country in the world, developed or otherwise, should be figuring out where mobile comes in.It’s another thing to see with your own eyes that this is not a future we can pretend we are planning for, it’s right now. Mobile is it. Mobile mobile mobile mobile. Repeat it, believe it. om mobile padme hum.sms
Saturday’s marvelous Mobile Tech for Social Activism BarCamp made it all real for me. Kudos to Hunter College’s Integrated Media Arts program for getting it – they co-hosted the event.

It was an unconference with about a half dozen sessions going simultaneously all the time. A lot of good Twittering captured some of the stuff, and organizer Mobile Active has a great directory of projects and demos. Patrick Meier did a very detailed summary of his day at iRevolution.

So, very briefly, a few things I came away with:
* I want an Android phone, but even more I want to become an Android developer so I can play with things like RapidSMS.
* I love the fact that so much of the interesting work with mobile is in the developing world. America is behind the curve.
* I am finally reading The Promise of Ubiquity: Mobile as Media Platform in the Global South, which John West and my colleagues at Internews Europe had the prescience to put out in December and which I hope will get the media development community thinking and talking more about this.
* As Ethan Zuckerman, always wise, reminded us via Skype, mobile doesn’t do everything – sometimes it needs to be complemented and multiplied by, for example, radio. Also, projects using voice are really interesting.
* Security and privacy are just as important for mobiles as they are on the Internet.
* Wish I were doing this not for a day but a week at Info-Activism Camp. Generally need more unconference and more camp in my life.
* Wonder if all the competition is good or wasteful (apparently it’ll take 3 years till we can fix the idiocy of mobile phone chargers?)
* Somewhat daunted by the thought of a whole new area of geekery to learn how to fake my way through.
* Saw a demo of 3-D video on an iPhone. Funtastic.

Update: Dried fish and mobile phones – read Christine Gorman on her day at M4change.
“SMS till you drop” — mobile phone ad on van in Kampala, Uganda
Uploaded to Flickr on November 24, 2006

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