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     Cellphone: The Story of the Worlds Most Mobile Medium and How it has
    Changed Everything
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In this hour of the show we'll be exploring the history of mobility in media and we will concentrate mostly on the unique impact of a device that is small enough to fit in your pocket and allows you to converse or to exchange messages with just about anybody any place at any time. Of course the downside of the technology is that you can be reached by almost anyone anywhere anytime. The thing that we're talking about here is the cell phone and our guest is Paul Levinson He's written a book on this it's titled cell phone the story of the world's most mobile medium and how it has transformed everything and it does indeed look at the various issues surrounding cell phone use. What that means for relations between people how it has changed our lives. The book is published by Paul grave. And Andy is out now. If you'd like to look at it our guest Paul Levinson has been the subject of major articles in a number of publications New York Times wired Christian Science Monitor he has written
science fiction his novels the CIL code and the consciousness plague have won major awards. He's professor and chair of Communication and Media Studies at Fordham University. That's in New York City and he is joining us this morning by telephone as we talk. Questions are certainly welcome questions comments welcome here in Champaign-Urbana where we are the number is 3 3 3 9 4 5 5. We do also have a toll free line. And that one's good any way that you can hear us 800 to 2 2 9 4 5 5. That's the number. Professor Levenson Hello. Good morning thanks for talking with us. I certainly appreciate the cell phone now is relatively speaking an inexpensive device and it's not at all difficult to get one and to have one and to be able to use it. Do you know offhand I'm just curious how many cell phones there are and you know how many cell phones per person there are in the United States. About 60 percent of the population now have for cell phones in the United
States in terms of raw numbers trying to. This country has the most cell phones that they have practically a Syrian people with cell phones just in China and it's growing constantly. It's the fastest growing medium is however sterile television which within 10 years from the late 1940s to the late 1950s pretty much saturated the population with up to 95 percent of the people in the United States by the 19th played IQ 50s having television in front of the cell phones probably that the second fastest growing medium in the United States. It is interesting that there are in as much as there are an awful lot of people who have cell phones in this country there are other places where the penetration of the cell phone is even greater and where people seem to have such enthusiasm for the technology and use them for everything imaginable including fairly trivial kinds of communication but maybe that's in the eye of the
beholder I guess. Well it is a key factor there is something that we needed a serious color leap frogging. And in parts of the world ironically did not have very good telephone service because. Very expensive to put wires across the country either to put them up on poles or put them in cables in the ground. That takes a lot of work and a lot of time and a lot of money. So in those countries that did not have that kind of infrastructure the cell phone quite on there even faster and sent cases than in the more developed countries. And then for a variety of reasons in the Far East in Asia and I mentioned China and Hong Kong and Singapore and Taiwan in those areas also cell phones caught on even faster than here in the United States and another interesting distinction is that over there are texting which is the sending of. Text messages on the cell phone in Japan for example is probably a more
popular use of the cellphone than having a verbal conversation. That's interesting why do you think that is part of it has to do with the culture of the country. You know Japan has always traditionally and still now price is a higher ethical value on courtesy. And so you know as we can see around us here in the United States when people are having verbal conversations on the cell phone those can seem intrusive and annoying to people in the vicinity. One of the benefits of sending text messages is nobody. Hears your voice and nobody is privy to the conversation except you of the party having a conversation. So that's probably the main reason why it's kept quite on in the Far Eastern countries. You know they're one of the interesting or and maybe provocative things about the technology is that it can be used not only to exchange information but to do
other things. Now we know you can talk on and you can send text messages you can and you can surf the web I guess if you can manage that tiny little screen on your phone. You can take pictures and send pictures. I think people have also expanded experimented using the telephone as kind of an 8am card at least the kind of thing that can interface with other devices. And you can you can buy things and use that as a way of paying for them sort of charging them in that sense. Maybe you can talk about the various things that you can do and how uses of the devices have expanded beyond talking on it. Well it's a very crucial part of having a temper. The ideal for that kind of multimedia dimensionality in the cell phone is the human brain itself and with this kilogram of matter that we each have in our goals we process the whole gamut of information. We hear see taste dream remember. Reason
project all of ours and many many more. And so it's not surprising that as we evolve our media we read and doing different things with different devices are moving slowly but surely towards a situation where we can do just about anything with one device and it looks like the cell phone will be that right because it started out as a vehicle of conversation. On a station which still is a bright key leap was made when the cell phone became connected to the Web and the web was already something that I call the medium media because even before the cell phone on the web you could see images here and music have conversations and text sending email read newspapers see video clips you know a lot of us things and more. Once their cell phone began connecting to the Web all of those things all that cornucopia of information became available through the cell phone
and I think within a few years we won't even distinguish between cell phone versus rabbit all be one device. We're already of course with Palm Pilots can do an enormous amount of that. That Israel had in fact Group broadband connections on the web threw up a palm pilot devices we can actually have conversations. So what we're seeing is a convergence of just about every medium that's ever been invented or into this one little device that we carry in our palms and in a way we're steering and this gets back to Marshall McLuhan we talk about media as extensions of our human senses. Well what the cell phone is expanding is our brains and everything our brains process so that's that we if you ask the big question was the difference between a cell phone and previous portable information technologies or portable mediums is that it incorporates. It takes everything that all those other things do that only do one thing and puts them all together in one
device that that has multiple functions it sort of makes me think about the illustration that's on the disk on the cover there book it is sort of the equivalent of the Swiss Army knife. That's right that's exactly right and I use that metaphor and it broke previous portable media works which are still important in our society ranging from originally the Kodak camera. Which in the 1880s was very revolutionary because until that time if you want to have a photograph taken you have to go to a photographer's studio and sit there as a very formal occasion. What the Kodak camera did and ever since then is our people to take a little camera with them and photograph anything they want out in the world than are 1950s. The transistor and its replacement are the big bulky vacuum tube allow people to carry around radios which require transistor radio. But in both our cases all the transistor radio could do is receive
radio signals. Well that the Kodak camera could do is take photographs. And in contrast as we now see with the cell phone it can do all of that and much more. And I think it's important also to mention with unintended consequences for example knowing fraud when a year or two ago cell phones began to be outfitted with camera devices that this could cause. Is there a problem with people taking photographs of people and various people compromising positions in their on clothes and so on. You know retrospect it seems not surprising that that happened but we're always surprised by the consequences of new technologies. Our guest in this part of focus 580 Paul Levinson. He is professor and chair of Communication and Media Studies at Fordham University in New York City and he is the author of the book cell phone the story of the world's most mobile medium and how it has transformed everything. Questions welcome we have somebody ready to go here others would be
welcome to in Champaign-Urbana where we are 3 3 3 9 4 5 5. We also have a toll free line good anywhere you can hear us. 800 to 2 2 9 4 5 5. We have a caller in Belgium nearby here. The line number for a long time good morning on I better see first that I am in the minority. I don't own one nor have I never used one. But the biggest problem I see with this. And correct me if I'm wrong but several years ago we were up we were having discussions about some topic and somebody had some fun in having the accent on your show. What has been five six ten years ago I was a long time ago. Well you know I don't recall that but we have here among ourselves had had that conversation about we would hate for that to happen for someone to be driving listening to the show talking on a cell phone and then have an accident. And and I think early on sometimes we sit we suggested to people if they were driving that they pull
off before they call in and then we started in we you know we have conversations about these things and we talk among ourselves I thought well that's a little bit heavy parental you know maybe we don't need to lecture people about the dangers of driving and talking the same time but it's something we've actually thought about but. But I don't remember that having happened but. Could your memory of that could be banned outright. Mine can be foggy too because I listens for new shows but that's the topic I was going to bring up I don't know how many times I've been driving down the road and see people talking and they don't pay attention and near misses a lot of times especially driving around corners when United stop light. Nice but very very crucial point and you know a lot of people unfortunately think about the cell phone in a normal pair or in the same way that they think about turning on the radio. It's a very different thing. You know having a conversation with the radio or the radio is asking a question it is very easy to to see the road ahead of you and focus on things. Put the radio on the deep background of your mind
whereas it's not that easy to do that with a cell phone. However that said I think a lot depends on the individual and I think that people have to be aware of how they drive what they need as a an environment in their car to be safe drivers. I think there are some people who can multitask very well. When James a psychologist from the late night a century said The world is a big booming buzzing confusion for our minds consciousness brings clarity to that so when we were in the business mentally and juggling a lot of things. Some people I think are fine with talking on the cell phone. Others are not. And those who are not do need to take heed and I think their families need to tell them don't talk on the cell phone when you're in the crowd. I hate to see laws that would prevent people from talking on the cell phone when in the car because there probably are situations the person is driving in a car and is alone and you know feels
the need to make an emergency call and you know it is driving and hiring can't stop the suffering to save that person's life and other people's lives as well right. But absolutely asinine caution needs to be used when people are using cell phones in cars. The Internet in a topic about cell phones and I find most an attractive use is mushrooming towners on the movement. Along every interstate on every hilltop. It be nice if you cut those down a bit. Well I think that there are actually not that that's a good point in any and all technological development. There's a caterpillar and a butterfly and a caterpillar is the sort of first expression of the technology. It's very often our glee gamely and as the technology evolves better more attractive and more effective devices take their places now and in the case of the cell phone we can clearly see a trajectory.
Satellites are beginning to play a role in cell phone use. Although you're quite right that still there are an enormous number of towers on the ground these relay stations but I recast that certainly within a decade most cellphone use will be taking place through satellites in which there are many fewer towers and relay stations on the ground that the tower is really a sort of holdover from the days of radio broadcasting which still uses towers where you know the broadcast was relayed from one station to another so we're talking about a concept that that's almost 100 years old but I think that as we move into the 21st century we'll see less of that. Thanks very much. Thank you. Let's go on here we have somebody on the line number one. Hello hello. Yes my question is about what the future of the instrument itself will be. I mean you talk about you know the integration of wireless voice with
other wireless media. And my question is it seems to me that you know initially the emphasis with the with the cell phone itself was to make it as small as you know your fingernail. And the idea that smaller was better but that sort of conflicts with the the the flexibility of using it to do things like text messaging that if the phone is so small it's almost impossible to really make it viable as an instrument for these other uses So I'm wondering what you think the how that will evolve. Threats are a very good question Aaron for our history we've already seen trade offs in media meaning a new device comes along and it starts things better in somewheres but worse in other ways. So for example our theirs or ours are a very good example. It certainly was good to be able to
relax at home and see a movie on the television screen brought to the screen on television was much smaller. And the sound was much poorer than that most movie theaters. I think you're quite right that the reduction in the size of the cell phone dire straits and a limit on what can be visually presented in a way that we find satisfying. Actually texting and text messages I think probably can work pretty well on a ferry small screen because you don't need to see if you just you know sending a couple of lies a couple sentences in patches to writing a book or a paper. You don't need to see all that much of the text on the screen. But right is a problem is if a person wants to watch a movie you know on their cell phone or watch a television show and then if the screen is the size of a postage stamp or from now that you know can be a problem. So what we'll probably have is just as we now have with motion pictures when someone wants to see a movie with all the trimmings they go out to a motion picture
theater. My guess is. More people watch television in the next decade on their cell phone on their little plot points that the right if there comes a time when they want to see something on television with the bigger screen or just watch their home. Isn't it what it really will do in the end is give us the option. Are getting visual information on the move out from our homes with the tradeoffs that the screens will be smaller. Thank you. All right thanks for the CO. It's a question that that might perhaps be Nabi one more addressed by a sociologist to perhaps but and that is that it has to do with how it is that effects this device affects our relations with with one another and I guess one thing I'm thinking about is of wondering whether you see any kind of developing cell phone etiquette that has to do with with when and where we use them because that is I think a point of annoyance sometimes annoyance sometimes for people that is other people using them. And of course we are if we happen to be
standing next to somebody who's talking on their cell phone you're pretty at least to one half of the conversation. It it it seems that that's something that we really haven't thought very much about maybe that maybe it's something that we really don't need to think of. We just we just leaped leaped into it and there we find ourselves. Well we do need to think about it now and I do talk about that extensively in my cell phone book there are several aspects to this problem. Warren which I think is really very important is that we need to Pizarro up an advocate in which people have the right to refuse to communicate meaning that just because someone is calling us on a cell phone doesn't mean that we have to have a conversation. We're coming from a history where information was always relatively scarce and it was something of an unusual thing to get a phone call. I mean it's been many years since been unusual to get a phone call back. It still is somewhat unusual to get a phone call united home. But what's
quickly happening is that it's moving into a situation where you know it's no longer exciting it could sometimes be annoying. And what we have to do and add cases is desirable a recognition and respect for the right of people to say no I don't choose to communicate at this time. As far as the phone being annoying to other people that itself is also an interesting issue where one of the things I talk about in the book is that I was on a train from New York to Washington a couple years ago and I noticed there were there was a couple having an argument man and woman about something it wasn't a serious argument it was no you know physical violence or anything applied but it was it was a pretty you know you know high pitched argue. You know pretty loud most people on the train heard it and you know people looked around and then basically went about their business. Well the argument was over in about 15 20 minutes later a woman got a Corus cell phone and proceeded in pretty much the same decibel level to have a conversation not an
argument some kind of business conversation or a cell phone. I noticed in the case of the cell phone call most people on the train were much more annoyed than me or whether or not it is almost the use of the cell phone itself was it was annoying it wasn't that the voice was any any louder. I think that is that these are part of the growing pains of our cell phones and I think there has to be given. From both sides I think people who use cell phones need to be aware that other people might not want to hear their conversations. People in the environment shouldn't get so upset or annoyed and that you know I think it's beginning to happen already so you know to know when someone else is programmed cell phone. Part of the problem is whenever cell phone rings if we have a cell phone for a split second we think it might be our cell phone ring and you know it commands our attention and then we're annoyed that we were pulled away from whatever we're doing because someone else's phone is ringing. But the cell phone has only been in our mass culture for about 10 years. So these are early days. The cell phone use
and I'm sure most of these problems will be worked out. You know it reminds me your story reminds me of an experience that I had now this was a couple of years ago and I think it was the first time that and it wasn't it wasn't that it was new but I guess the first time I was aware of somebody having a conversation using one of those pieces that has a microphone attached so that you don't have to hold the phone to your ear. And I was in the coffee shop I was at Starbucks in the tower I grew up and I was sitting there having coffee and it was a tiny place. So they were very small tables and in nearby me there was a couple sitting there was a man and a woman. And there was a woman she was sitting there she was reading a book and the man was talking and I guess immediately right at the beginning I assumed he was talking to her. So he's sitting there talking in sort of a normal maybe even slightly louder than normal tone of voice. And she's sitting there reading her book in periodic Lee she looks up for the book and gives us guide. The dirtiest look you ever saw. And I'm thinking to myself Man these people need to work on their relationship. And after a couple minutes I realize no he was not talking to her.
They just happened to be sharing the table because it was a small place and there weren't that many chairs and he was talking on his cell phone some kind it was some kind of business thing because he was sitting there he was wearing a tie and he had papers spread out in front of him and he was having this conversation it was kind of like yes yes we can do that. Sure we could we could get enough chairs for that and then finally I'm I got the clue. Oh no these people are not together and she was this woman who was sitting there trying to read her book and have her coffee was really unhappy obviously with this guy who who was just sitting there doing his his business think that's a great story. I mean overhearing these half conversations are like our or our airplane. I'm always too cheap to pay the $5 for the sheep for the head program and what's right there in Florida now to my surprise I only ever watch the movie pretty much get it I don't need to have tons of course it's annoying. No sound the same. First for the reverse we hear a voice without any context and you know can be irritating. And I guess the edge as you have said the other disadvantage may be to the technology and also
something that changes the way we live is that before the cell phone. There were times when people were unreachable. Now if you have the phone and you're willing to answer it you're never unreachable and somehow that that debt that tether see is sometimes can seem to be a terrible burden because it means that your office can always reach you. It means that your family can always reach you and there know it's hard to find that sense that you're really alone in a part you could you could be out in the middle of the wilderness and someone could still call you on your cell phone. That's absolutely right. Weddings are mentioned a book as Marshall McLuhan in the 70s 1970 said that the last place where a North American can be alone in terms of not being reachable when you're alone in your automobile. And of course that was about a decade before our first car phones are now cell phones. Every teenagers feel nervous to write so more keenly than any other part of our population because on the one hand and you know we have two kids you know one
is now 21 and Over 17 for their own without it teenagers today both had cell phones you know for a couple of years you know at first they were very eager to have a cell phone of their own. And so they call their friends a person and they discovered that we could call them you know if they're going out at night we expect them to take their cell phone and be reachable. Then suddenly they have to figure out where are you know maybe I won't take my cell phone. It's a fascinating you know in their situation and it's fascinating to see how prayers out. But it brought in a way a tip for us what the case is an open media there's never been a medium in fact there's only been beneficial and only been helpful. It's always you know a trade off a two edge sword a medium so if on balance it's better for our society and that the press is out wait a minute just wait until we get global positioning devices built into those cell phones and parents can click on their computers and find out where their children are then the kids are really going to be a happy house or I'd love
them as a parent program. Our guest is Paul Levinson He's professor and chair of Communication and Media Studies at Fordham University in New York City. He is also a science fiction writer his novels the Silk Road in the consciousness plague have both won major awards he is the author of the book cell phone the story of the world's most mobile medium and how it has transformed everything. Paul grave McMillan is the publisher of the book is out now. If you'd like to look at it and course questions here are welcome to 3 3 3 9 4 5 5. Toll free 800 to 2 2 9 4 5 5. A do you think it's interesting how. And I'm assuming that probably the younger people are are more receptive to the technology at least again where I around the campus. Here it seems that all that everybody I see all the students that I see virtually They all have cell phones I get I see them in my coffee shop and they're sitting there and they're doing their homework and most of them have laptops and then on the table in front of them will also be a cell phone and maybe also
a you know a portable CD player or something like that. And it's is is it more more likely that the younger you are the more receptive you are to the technology. Absolutely yes in the case of the cell phone the growth rate has been about prices fast. Our people are under 21 and people over 21 are interesting later than a recent scrutiny among senior services in the US cell phones abroad in general new media are always most appreciated by a people who don't have that much invested in older media. We saw this with computers and I remember there are ladies of our party and somebody asked me a question about a computer and I was starting to answer and then the price piped up it was the son of the person whose house it is better better secure or cared they very clearly explained how to use this computer much better their car was explaining it because he had obvious you know spending time on a computer
right. The telephone even monitors there are a PITA. Right for going to war with liars which it still is in some areas of course our was always something that kids especially liked because it got them out of the supervision of have parents you know when you talk to someone on the phone that person you're talking to is is not part of the home environment and so in that sense it's very liberating. And the cell phone just takes that to the next step. There are problems you know you mentioned education and classrooms and a Cell phones ringing in classrooms and you know I've told my students you know that it's not acceptable for them to have a phone conversation while they're you know in my class but I do have to admit that I keep my cell phone on in case you know one or Steven Spielberg may want to call me and make a movie or one of my novels right away. Thought I missed that call. Let's talk with some other folks here. Urban line number one hello.
Hello hi. I actually just had a brief story to share but the reason I have a cell phone is I'm a teenager and my parents outside of the cell phones about a year ago and I don't know if we could call them if like you know we really needed a ride from somewhere or something like that just to let them know we were. So I've generally been glad to have it. But what happened was you had mentioned that you know you could even move be out in the wilderness and get a cell phone call and that actually happened to me I was on vacation in Utah with some friends and we had to hike down canyon and I was sitting on a rock looking around at my cell phone rang it was my grandparents wondering if I could mow the lawn. So I just want to share. Well at least you had a good excuse. You could say no I'm sorry I can not available for that right now. Sort of like run kind of out of town. Well thanks for the story. Thank you for your mom when your parents crying on the cell phone. They do yeah and that's OK with you if you call them your good brother. Well thank you. All right thanks for the call. We have somebody else here who is north of Bloomington on our toll free
line line for Hello. If you go there on line number 4. Well maybe not let's try another urban a call I hear this line too. Hello. Yeah you talked about the way kids are using cell phones to cheat on exams. Well it's a problem and you know I just finished giving my final exams here at Fordham University in New York City and you know we tell people to turn if cell phones are off and you know we have other you know faculty in their classes and they get final exams and have to keep an eye on students. Certainly. Attempting way of cheating and you know the fact again that the cell phone can hook into the web and you know you can look up all the answers there. Unless you get an open book exam that can be a problem. Sorry again. Most technologies you know are like knives. If you think about what a knife can do a knife is going to cut
food that's helpful you know it can help us construct things. That's good but nice can be used to bad things and the suffering times communication is is really you know I had to read start to get back to that. The Swiss Army Knife metaphor. Yeah and the there's been a lot of stuff recently about how you know. They had a thing on ABC about up skirting and using the camera part of some phones but I was going to I was going to dared to be sexist here. And then I was going to ask you if you if not after I asked but I was curious if it just seems like so many women would be in really dire straits if cell phones went down all of the sudden and just kind of curious if
I mean I see him at 8 o'clock in the morning like walking the class and they're still conversing in this university town and I'm just curious if you if you see anything in particular as it relates to a woman in particular and I'll hang up and listen thanks. Well actually two points for a start. Up skirt shots I mean these are star serious social problem and first surfaced in Japan. It's people using cell phones you know in and phoning stores department stores somehow getting into changing rooms or even on subways and taking inappropriate photos. And you know the Japanese authorities are trying to crack down on it at the very least. You know in these appear on the Web certainly they should be investigated and prosecuted. Here in Westchester County New York. The county executive has proposed outlawing cell phone use in in restrooms which probably is going too far because when a person gets a call you know innocent call but
I get it. What are the social problems which you know we have to focus on. Second part of question are no there's no evidence whatsoever that women use cell phones more than men. It's pretty much equal. There is no mention there are a disproportionate large cell phone use on the part of younger people on the part of you know kids and even people in their 20s. A bar. Men and women use cell phones equally so you know sometimes we observe something out in the street and around us and we think that that's the case you know we project that for you know the rest of the world but in fact the cell phone use is pretty equal between the genders. Is it. I'm not sure this is a question that's answerable but if you are do you think that now that so many people have cell phones that that we are all of us are spending more time talking on the phone than we did at the time when everybody was dependent on land landlines that phone that's plugged into the wire that comes in.
House it at all. Yes there's no doubt it was spending more time talking on a phone and not raise a very important point there only of course 24 hours in a day we spend you know with any rock in the 6:00 hour and right in our sleeping if we can get it. And so media are constantly in competition for our patronage and the telephone always trumped other media even the Old Man Wright front of watching television and telephone rings you know it always be the person is going to offer us that great business to you know you know the person we've been madly in love with. Usually it's someone you know pitching some kind of insurance you know scheme or whatever it is applied to but nonetheless that ambiguous phone ring is is almost irresistible. And now with cell phones. Spending more time talking on the phone. And one interesting question is is it better to talk on the phone than talk to the people around us I mean this is a question that arose and so often phones used at home and now it's a question that arises with
people out in the world. And again it's a trade off because the cell phone has the benefit of enabling us to be out in the world you know the sunshine on our face. You know the breeze blowing through our half and talk on the phone. But we have a conversation on the phone. We're not attending to something else in our immediate environment so I think if there is long distance communication unless immediate communication as is often cell phone we have some of the folks here someone in India. They are next. And one well you know statement where I'm from Indiana the whole state it's illegal use cell phone in a moving car. Just something you were talking about earlier and didn't want to have happened. They kept some guy track in amount of accidents occur when people are on their cell phone by going into their companies to get their records was that the company didn't want to do it. But anyway stay long now. Secondly I got you know a synopsis of the story with the Sasser worm about the people
teenagers in West I guess in Germany and I didn't hear all of it but the detail in it was something that some of this started was a website or ISP in Malaysia it was used in and to cover its tracks a wireless device was used presume that means the cell phone doesn't work if you can make a comment about that I think or what the one device chooses not to suffer from it it was probably you know a pop pirate or or some kind of PDA that has some kind of very small computer but doesn't really matter because it had great credit better cell phone and but in person your question is yes our cellphone can be used to deceive. When the Jason Blair story broke in The New York Times last year Jason Blair or the reporter who is making up all kinds of stories and pretending to invest. It's stories and in a lot of things that I couldn't help noticing once he was in fact in Brooklyn and the nearest home and he used a cell phone to call in a story to
his editor at The New York Times in Manhattan and he claimed to be in Washington D.C. investigating the story. So there's no doubt that the cell phone can be used for deceit you know it's interesting historically to know that the word phony one of the origins of that word in the early 1990s was something that took place over the phone because it didn't seem real to people then and in a way the cell phone has given a new Unfortunately meaning you know to that word easy to deceive on the cell phone because it it's it's not tied to any price. The cell phone caller can claim to be anywhere and they're there. Person overseas across Norway in verifying that but you mentioned earlier you know global positioning chips and so on. We may soon have a time when we will be able to tell exactly where the cell phone caller is calling from and that of the least eliminate that problem. Next caller is in champagne. As far as we know and the line too. Hello.
Yes good morning. I'm interested in what you're having to say and I was particularly interested about the cheating on time. Do you think maybe since it's so easy to get information to cheat on the test that maybe it says as much about what's being taught and what's on the test as opposed to bump those cheating. Well that's a good question I should mention that I believe science professor only gave open book exams because I'm not interested in what the students can remember because you don't need to remember that much to be successful in this world. I'm more interested in what the students understand and how they can organize the information and coherent ways and give elusive answers. So you know I'm sympathetic to what your point is. Reverend there are other classes which are not practicing communication history communication theory there are other Crassus a language classes
where memorization is crucial to the subject and if you can't remember what a certain word means you know you're not going to be able to do that around that language so it's in those cases I think where it doesn't make sense to give open book exams and where are the cellphone can be a dangerous device if you're cheating. It just seems to me that it's so easy to see the information and it's so easily. So he's over a tree to retrieve the information or to find out that maybe what they're testing on is you know and I understand you understand what I'm saying and I realize that memorization is necessary but I think that many of them are geared to this kind of thing and they need to not worry so much about the cell phone bill what they're doing on their tests. Yes you're right I mean again it depends on the subject matter if there's some risk taking a test in French. You wouldn't let them bring in a French dictionary unless you know it was a very
fast course Newtown. Except perhaps for a future separate testing vocabulary you wouldn't have him for he had a French dictionary sorrow by the French token they should have a cell phone where they can get that information I think. There's nothing wrong with those kinds of tests for those kinds of classes. I've had to talk about a class in media serious philosophy understanding history and in fact a wide variety of subjects. There I agree refer with a call to another call here this is someone in her Bana line 3 alone on campus I saw a couple walking along together. Each talking on their cell phone. So I thought gee that presumably not to each other. That's right and that was sort of interesting you know the comment I have is that area probably in this were you know being this wired society is increasing stress not only on you know as couples but also in the business environment that where do you get this
time to sort of be alone I get the feeling that sometimes people don't like to be alone or they do everything to keep from being alone so you know the idea of reflecting on your life and you know thinking about these things over that. People have become so wired in this tremendous amount of stress you see that you know when couples with their children you know everybody in they've got their jobs or at home you know and so on and on in terms of a comment what do you think. Right. You know the cell phone or any medium or expect when it's an option not a requirement so I think the cell phone as an option that people can use to communicate whether families offer business that that's very good as long as it's you know an option and what that means is they are saying before people need to develop and cultivate the capacity to say no to shut the cell phone off or not answer the cell phone when it rings so that they have some time with their own thoughts I mean that's an important part of life. It breaks example you know the couple rocking a
stronger on Star front of my eyes me there's a great scene in Citizen Kane it's Citizen Kane I guess. Cain's first marriage came from a bar where I was and I think who pray to his wife. And they're sitting around the breakfast table and they start off talking to each other and Cain effects of class in the newspaper and life is looking at a book and then the table spins around and time passes and Cain is much more seriously reading the newspaper as life is much more seriously reading the book and barely talking to each other and what type pass is a tablespoon. It's around again and we see them eating breakfast and dinner having any conversation whatsoever. Keynes has probably parroted what he's reading at the Stanford it's right that dramatically shares the view of the dissolution of that relationship so in a way a couple walking each trucker to put pressure on the cell phone starts make your Christian reparation trip or are we just seeing one split second of the relationship. Possibly they talk to each other and the whole rest of the day.
Even Also it's one thing I eat out a lot go to a lot of restaurants in restaurants is always concerns me when you see these couples and they're not they're not communicating and I don't know what percentage but it seems there's a fair number of from time to time anyway. But my concern still is there's so much pressure in society especially in the job today we talk about productivities going up and up. You know people are working longer and harder hours and what happens is it's sometimes it's hard to say no it's nice if you've got a job that where you still stay in contact to express you and you won't move up into the management area. Anyway good show. All right well thanks for the go. We're down to maybe about five six seven minutes in this part of focus on meeting with Paul Levinson. He's professor of communication and media studies at Fordham University and he's got an entire book on this subject if you're interested in looking at it titled cell phone. The story of the world's most mobile medium and how it has transformed everything you know. A couple of years ago I was watching the
program 24 and you're probably familiar with that other people are of this sort of thriller espionage drama series and the gimmick of the shipper people are not familiar the gimmick of the show is the events of the story take place over a period of 24 hours. There are 24 installments and each of the programs is in real time so it's like it's what happened. The first one is what happened the first hour. Next one is what happen the second hour it's over and I'm watching the show and at some point it just struck me that people in that show are constantly talking on the telephone and that if were it not for the cell phone I thought this program would be impossible. Which leads me to think about and I wonder whether you have thought about it since you are a novelist also about the cell phone and its use as a dish as a device in fiction or drama. Well absolutely our hand in a lot of my novels the results of praise for a are are made through the cars I read
actually three of my novels featured Dr. Phil tomorrow night. Frame of a character in the Silk Road the comics the spread of the pixel right is that he's. New York City for unexpected and costly gets involved in strange cases. But in order to have him out investigating the cases and also get the latest information you know he has to have a cell phone and you know you're asking that question because I had even occurred to me if I had been writing about the same character in the 1970s or if I situated and then just the trajectory of the story would be very different because in order for him to get information I have to have him get back to his office you know from time to time or use pay phones for a pay phone in many ways is the predecessor of the cell phone because the pay phone did allow people when they were outside in the world to make laws to not receive calls unless they would call and say call me back. So in a way so sad to see the pay phone you know grow the way some of the older media and it's sort of interesting that there was that movie phone booth which was out
about a year ago and this summer the same producers are coming out with a movie called cell phone proto human form from the cell phone is now cinematically recorded. Well I can't even think the last time I saw a phone booth. I guess they must still exist but but now it seems that that the that the pay phone is pretty much if it's not already gone it's going to be gone. So that if you are out in the street and you need to make a phone call you better have a cell phone or you're not going to be able to do it. It is a story I noticed tonight somebody told me probably true. If someone starts you just a couple months ago someone or somewhere on a street corner Manhattan crap broke or have to make or you know foreclose standing next to one of the few surviving from birth and the person having giving the other person a quarter pulled out a cell phone so here is my cell phone and I'm surprised the person didn't take off immediately with the cell phone now that would be a great scam for stealing cell phones like I don't know if there really would be worth very much. Would just about the point we have to finish just as as a way of last
thoughts here for a minute or two. Maybe you could talk a little bit more about where you think this technology is going and what are there things you think that we will be doing with these devices that we can't imagine or that we don't readily imagine now. You conclude my book where two suggestions. One which would help the horror and one which would help the person being called the coroner I think would be great if we could just speak the person's name that we want to get in touch with and then a cell phone program would search the web and get every conceivable number where that person might be. I just keep calling numbers 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 cetera until the person was reached or made in some cases not reached me or for the for the person being called. It would be cool if in addition to we have to see a number flashing as a call coming and if we can hear the voice of the person making the call and then we can decide OK who's at that number it's my mother in law. No I don't want to hear from her. Is my father in law or maybe going to give me some
Focus 580
Cellphone: The Story of the Worlds Most Mobile Medium and How it has Changed Everything
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WILL Illinois Public Media
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WILL Illinois Public Media (Urbana, Illinois)
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Consumer issues; cell phones; Technology; telecommunication; community; Media and journalism
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Producer: Brighton, Jack
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Duration: 49:19
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Duration: 49:19
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Chicago: “Focus 580; Cellphone: The Story of the Worlds Most Mobile Medium and How it has Changed Everything ,” 2004-05-13, WILL Illinois Public Media, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed August 12, 2022,
MLA: “Focus 580; Cellphone: The Story of the Worlds Most Mobile Medium and How it has Changed Everything .” 2004-05-13. WILL Illinois Public Media, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. August 12, 2022. <>.
APA: Focus 580; Cellphone: The Story of the Worlds Most Mobile Medium and How it has Changed Everything . Boston, MA: WILL Illinois Public Media, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from