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Wednesday
Mar302011

Life Going Mobile

Mobile means transformation.

With internet-enabled smartphones, we are entering an era of hypercommunication. No matter where we are, no matter at what time, we are constantly and increasingly engaging in conversations with other people – be it via email, via our social network accounts, or via instant messaging. The mobile internet is slowly but steadily transforming our lives. Here are some aspects of how I think life is going mobile:

From Pull to Push

When we use the internet today, we are actively seeking information. We pull links from search engines, articles from news sites, and media from portals hosting music, images and videos. It is rarely the sites that connect to us. With mobile, the story is different. Information can be pushed onto a phone using push notifications, e-mail or SMS. Since the phone is both personal and always connected, such notifications can be truly smart. From alerting you of approaching bad weather to offering you a ticket for your favorite band’s concert right after its announcement, mobile devices have the potential to become really powerful personal assistants. 

Boosting social media

A decade ago, how easy was it to publish texts, pictures, and videos? How easy was it to broadcast messages to other people? Sure, the internet has made these tasks a lot easier. But it is the mobile internet that places these powers into everybody’s hands, everywhere, at any time. Clay Shirky’s talk at TED on how social media can make history shows in an impressive way how the internet enables a new type of many-to-many broadcasting. Social media give people a voice they have never had. These new media are highly dynamic and incredibly fast. They can bypass censorship and repression. They can organize communities. They might one day replace traditional one-way media entirely.

The Sixth Sense

Remember those old days when you needed a map to navigate your way around town? When you wanted to take a picture, but did not bring your camera? When you heard a piece of music that you wished to remember and identify, but could not? When you stood in a store looking at a price tag, wondering whether that was a good deal? When you missed your train and had to go through the billboards at the station to find out which train you might take instead? We do remember those times, and we don’t miss them. Our mobile phones have become our Sixth Sense. Having the internet, GPS, a gravity sensor, and a compass in our pocket makes us superhuman. By combining the collective knowledge of our phones, we might even get a snapshot of the state of our world. Just imagine weather updates and traffic reports based on millions of different sensors.

Social serendipity

Serendipity is the effect by which one accidentally discovers something fortunate. We have all experienced serendipity: Be it the random encounter turned into the closest friendship, the short thumbing through a book before discovering it as the most impressive work ever written, or your favorite bar in town you discovered only because it started raining and you had to move inside. In the future, location-based services will enforce serendipity. They will suggest places you might like, and notify you whenever you are close to people you might want to talk to. They might help improve communication among people in the workplace as well as in everyday life.

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