molly hankwitz on 14 Nov 2000 05:33:51 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] Re: Cellophones and the Cancer of Cellspace

"Locations, Dislocations and the Human Body"
by Molly Hankwitz

Michael van Eeden wrote:

Date: Mon, 13 Nov 2000 23:06:28 +0100
From: Michael van Eeden <>
Subject: Re: <nettime> Cellphones and the Cancer of Cellspace

>What i find interesting in the whole cellphone debate is that nobody has
>mentioned the fact that cellphones are actually a much more 'logical'
>solution to the problem phones in general try to solve than old wired
>phones. Generally, when you use a phone, you try to reach a person, not a
>location. But what we have been doing over the last 100 years is call to a
>location. If we were lucky somebody would be at this location, not
>necessarily the person we wanted to reach, and this person would either
>call the person and hand over the phone to the person we actually wanted
>to reach, or take a message. Nowadays in office environments i am always
>amazed by people answering other people's phones ('no, he/she is not here
>at the moment, sorry')- if somebody is not there isn't the most logical
>thing to do just not answer the phone?

This is an excellent point, this point about locations, and is what i was
trying, I guess
unsuccessfully to get at when I wrote about  driving in 2 cars and getting
directions on the road
and cellphone use in public space, safety-wise, in an earlier posting...
I mean, cellphones are opening up many new possibilities and dissolving all
kinds of boundaries
of public and private. I think that reducing them to a fashion accessory
is to miss a point that such items are often in a kind of morphing process.
I also think that we can't simply think in terms of one or two kinds of
mobility or
of the kind of mobility assumed by the 20 something, 30 something physically
fit age-group of the now-generation. Mobility is really different if you
are poor or
handicapped or old or blind. That we can more readily find each other in
space at
all is a good thing and if you don't want to be called or to take messages
then you
can leave your phone turned off and collect messages until later.

The  expense of cellphones is one of the problems with them,
but the benefits outweigh the money often, especially, if you stop to consider
those in wheelchairs, the blind, or old people alone who are not that mobile
physically. The possibilities opened up for the medically infirm by virtual
space and electronic media is phenomenal, if the expense can be reduced.

The other problem is cancer. There is a lot of reason to seriously question
this given that computers didn't have adequate safety standards for
radiation for a long, long time. The concrete "trees" built by cellphone
networks for relaying calls may cause cancer after prolonged exposure to
them and there have been efforts to remove these from some public spaces in
Melbourne, for example. (this fact from David Cox) What effect they have on
the breast, if any, is, to my mind, another good question.  Everywhere
there are microwaves and electromagnetic waves. None of this is really that
healthy for us. It's like early radiation standards on desktop computers.
(Australia, I read, leads the world in developing radiation safety
standards for computers.) Still, radiation affects millions of workers in
the global economy daily, not to mention those affected by "second-hand"
radiation or potentially the effect on children and infants.

Is it a kind of "bloodless" war masquerading as free trade and competition?

But aside from these possible horrors,what I find really interesting is the
evolution of phones...
moving from rotary dial to keypad operated phones (which allow for more
and I think it's important to note  that the emergence of cellphones is not
an isolated phenomenon, but is accompanied by such developments as the
widespread use of voicemail services in
which a phone is needed to collect one's messages from a remote location.
One has a phone number but not an actual phone. The cost of not dealing
with the telephone company but using
payphones, or work phones or other people's phones is preferable for many
low-income people. Likewise, the answering machine which  one attachs to
one's home phone allows for a kind of virtuality if one considers that one
can receive messages when not physically
at home. The answering machine, replacing perhaps personal message services
with live bodies to take messages for the better-off, allowed more actual
mobility for the phone-owner. Voice mail then replaced the answering
machine as the only remote recorder and became a service of phone companies
as well as private agencies. With all of these developments the notion
of location is already becoming a displacement.

It think that "mobile phone", the name, gives us many clues about  what's
possibly going on. These infiltrating phones are an outward expression of
mobility, perhaps. Maybe they are fashion in this sense, but maybe they are
also an interstitial technology that will morph into something else,
something smaller, more comely, more silent, more invisible, even, and  our
ability  to be locatable--different from traceable - will be less
prosthetically-obvious -- a phone, a ring, a vibration, a beep - and more
nuanced and controlled.


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