robert adrian on 12 Nov 2000 10:37:11 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] Re: Cellpohones and the cancer of cellspace

M. Wark wrote:
>Cellphones are not the Internet. Theyre a different medium. Just as
>interactive TV shows were not a big hit on TV, browsing the Web is not
>going to be a big hit on cellphones. Its a new medium that calls, not for
>"content", but for form.

Cellphones are not necessarily "the telephone" either:
The cellphone (known as the "handy" in Central Europe) is actually
more like radio - in the original sense of wireless communication -
than telephone. Its direct ancestry is therefore closer to CB than
to Ma Bell. In this sense radio returns - via the handy - to its
un-programmed origins as a medium of one-to-one communication
after 75 years of domination by the "broadcasting" industry.

>Why is America so far behind in cellphone culture? For once, the free
>market has failed to deliver. Where the United States has competing
>technical standards promoted by different companies, in most of the rest
>of the world there were national phone companies that mandated a common
>technical standard: GSM.

An important reason that computer networking (whether BBS or
internet) was so succesfull so early in North America was the
fact that local telephone calls are free - included in the
flat-rate. This meant - and still means - that you can connect
via modem to a local server free in North America while in Europe
and other parts of the world you must pay for local calls in
addition to ISP charges. This has been a serious impediment to
popular internet growth, at least in Europe.
But the same factor (free local calls) - so helpful with the
growth of the internet - makes the handy seem expensive to
N.Americans. Pagers, almost unknown in Europe, are very cheap
and convenient for N.Americans with unlimited pay-phone time
for a quarter (in Europe pay-phones are also charged by the
It is always difficult to convince people that they should pay
for something that is already free - so it will take a while for
the cellphone to be seen as much more than a costly toy for the
average N.American customer.

______________robert adrian_____________

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