The most important cultural artifact for 2012 is the cell phone. The historical roots are based on people’s urge to communicate. New technology has always been used to facilitate communication. Even starting with prehistory this has been true. After fire was invented fires were lit on hillsides to send information to the next village. In the story titled The Iliad by the ancient Green called Homer, fire as a communication tool was described. In Book 18 of The Illiad Homer describes how during a war at night fires were lit so that the people in other islands would come to help. The telegraph and the telephone were two of the first inventions that were used across the world after the harnessing of electricity. Times have changed and the most recent technology to boost is from the invention of digital software. No one should be surprised to find cell phones (also called mobile phones in Europe) to be as popular as they are around the world. The need to communicate is deep rooted in the culture of the human race.
The historical cultures leading up to our culture in contemporary time made communication far more personal than we experience of a disconnected voice over the phone. Before telephones people still communicated daily with more editions of newspapers for one example. People could still keep up with the latest events even without radio, television or satellite dishes. People out in society also used to carry personal calling cards with their name. Letters were written and delivered the same day if distances were not too far. People living in cities had the fastest ways to communicate using messengers to deliver letters, telegraphs and all kinds of information. If the person you are trying to reach by cell phone answers their phone when you call then there is a chance that you will be communicating immediately. Since that is not always the case other technologies have been added to phones like the capability to send text messages and emails. Even today communication may still take hours or days depending upon the availability of the receiver of the message. For awhile the radio and the television were more popular than cell phones are today. The nice thing about cell phones is that they offer two-communications. This is much better for society from a strictly community point of view compared especially to the television. People together watching television are usually focused totally on the television. Even though they may be sitting together in the same room, even on the same couch they may not be having any type of communicative interaction with each other.
"New media and technology enhance the level and degree of communication, leading individuals to communicate in an increasing number of ways and with greater frequency using mediums that enable connectivity across time and space" (Horst, 2009, p. 99) There is a concern though that face-to-face communication may be suffering because talking to friends and family is so easy with cell phones and other digital applications. That could mean that cell phones are increasing “physical isolation and separation” in ways that traditionally have never happened before (Horst, 2009, p. 99). One of the worries is that neighborhoods and even families could breakdown because people do not have to be physically in the same room to talk to each other. On the other hand family members and neighbors may stay in touch more than they did without telephones. When people go to college, travel or find a job far from home the cell phone is great for keeping in regular touch with friends and family.
“As a rise of individualism in modern life was seen as the deposition of the larger social order represented by the terms society and culture” (Miller, 2009, p. 3). Miller (2009) also explains how the ways individuals behave can be studied using the same methodology anthropologists study the way societies behave. (p. 4) I am not sure how that is done but the idea is very interesting. Cell phones are available in many designs and with lots of decorative accessories so that the device can become individualized. People can base their choice on the style, shape and color of cell phones. Other people decide on how practical the phone is for their needs. A teen-ager may take a lot of time deciding the color, style and capabilities of the different brands before they buy a cell phone. Whereas an elderly person may want the cell phone that is the most simple to use and has large numbers that can be seen easily. By comparing the teenager and the elderly person we can see that groups of cell phone users will be important in analyzing how society as a whole incorporates the cell phone into the culture.
In a forum at MIT the impact on culture of the cell phone was the subject of a forum with James Katz from the Center for Mobile Communications Studies at Rutgers University. Jing Wang, head of Foreign Languages and Literatures, MIT also took part in the forum. Professor Katz’s specialty is how devices like the cell phone “affect social relationships and how cultural values influence usage patterns of these technologies” (Katz & Wang, 2005) He defined culture “as a shared set of practices, norms, values and symbols” (Katz & Wang, 2005).
Some of the ways cell phones may have started impacting our culture may turn out to be very big because in some countries there are more cell phone in use than there are people. (Katz & Wang, 2005) Katz describes the way people are creating their own personal micro cultures because they allow people to focus on personal and specific interests like games and political candidates. On the other hand some people use their phones to sit apart from other people so they can view television on the phones or use it for other activities in privacy. Katz (2005) mentioned that the individualization of phones by decorating them in personal ways has given “rise” to a folk industry and so in that way they are a type of art. Professor Wang (2005) talked about the effects of cell phones allowing people to SMS their votes as a way interact with television shows like American or Chinese Idol. She feels that cell phones may have implication democratic activities that have not yet been unraveled.
1. The idea that we all have a shared that is collective cultural heritage is very powerful. Lately everyone is focusing on how different people are from in one culture compared to a different culture. If people understood how cultures have shared common knowledge throughout history maybe it would be easier for them to recognize similar characteristics instead of focusing on differences. Also the differences that people point out can be very superficial like color of skin or what kind of car they own, but judging people on outside appearances wastes an opportunity to meet someone new who might become a friend. People need to understand that human beings are all the similar in the same ways across cultures while at the same time we are all different because of our personal human natures. The human race has spread across the whole globe but we should not forget that our ancestors all started on the continent of Africa. In other for humans to survive there has had to be more cooperation that conflict. If people realized that we all have a shared heritage perhaps war would not be so easily acceptable as a solution to problems. The war in Syria is one example. Syria is home to one of the earliest Christian churches in the world. If people in American knew that maybe they would not be so willing to think that Syria is filled with people who are just different. Maybe Americans would care more about what is happening to families there because of the war.
2. The role of understanding cultural differences is very important in having peace between countries. For example, North Korea has a very different culture than anywhere in the US. But the leader of North Korea had Dennis Rodman, the famous basketball player as his guest. After his visit to North Korea Rodman was talking about organizing basketball games between the two cultures so that some understanding could develop. Sports is a great way to help people from different cultures have a way to interact and slowly begin to understand and hopefully respect each other. That was the whole idea between the Olympic Games – people from all over the world would stop wars and go to Greece to participate in the Olympic Games. In the ancient cultures, sports was a powerful way for people to interact with non-violence. In modern times the Olympics still bring athletes together. The athletes have a chance to meet and interact with people for all over the world including cultures that are a lot of different or only a little different. I see international sports are a great way for people learn about cultures and have a good, healthy way to interact.
Katz, J. and Wang, J. (17 Nov. 2005). Cell Phone Culture. MIT Communications Forum. Available from http://web.mit.edu/comm-forum/forums/cell_phone_culture.htm
Kelty, C. (2010). Introduction: Culture in, Culture Out. Anthropological Quarterly, 83(1), 7+. Retrieved from http://www.questia.com
Miller, D. (Ed.). (2009). Anthropology and the Individual: A Material Culture Perspective. New York: Berg. Retrieved from http://www.questia.com
Homer. The Iliad Book 18 as cited by Lahanas, M. (n.d.). Ancient Greek Communication Methods. Available from http://www.mlahanas.de/Greeks/Communication.htm