Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Techno-nomadic life indeed

After participating in the LiftAsia 08 conference in Jeju, I had a couple of days worth of spotty access to the Internetz. It was surprisingly traumatic. Usually, I love getting away for a while but -under my terms-. I suppose that's the difference, and what with being in a different time zone, different country, trying to organize things any other way kind of bites. After all, for those of you who have seen what phone I'm using, it garners giggles from other Koreans (it's hard for foreigners to get snazzy phones here, or phones at all for a reasonable price). Missing a call here, or not responding to email for a while is just not an option especially given the administrative headaches of 'settling in' to a new country. It gave the talks on Techno-Nomadic life, connectivity, and battery life some more meaning for me.

This brings me to Bruce Sterling's talk at Lift -- he came out in full force for the first day... saying that cell phones were the way to go. And before you immediately dismiss what he says as utopian, quite the contrary. It was because he wanted to talk about the poverty, and the world's poor. He distinguished between those who 1) Can't make money (i.e. are incapable) and 2) People who have no money because they're shut out of the current financial system. (This session was to do with virtual money).
He distinguished between the typical 'digital divide' being about the literate and non-literate, and generally people are familiar with those debates. There was a division between the computer wealthy and the computer poor. There is no cell phone divide, he stated. People are surprised at how eager the poor are to have cell phones. ***Methinks to self, it's because our technologies are moving more towards oral as opposed to literate-biased technologies (see Walter Ong).
The people to whom innovations in virtual money, cell phones, etc matter are going to be the urban poor. They are the stakeholders in the post-cash economy. He then drew parallels to the relevant situation in North/South Korea to East/West Germany. He urged South Koreans to think of their next user as possibly a North Korean, and how South Korea's rapid technological rise (within 50 years) will have to be -even more compressed- to 10-15 for North Korea.
It was a thought provoking talk... and one of many.

Well, that ought to give you an idea of the variable flavours of talks at this conference. Speakers included Joonmo Kwon, Jan Chipchase, Christian Lindholm, Bruno Bonnell, Adam Greenfield, and a really cool demo by Jury Hahn on Megaphone. Rather than name everyone, pictures are better. :) See my flickr set>>

There are also more if you follow the buzz.... liftasia08.

The next one is in Geneva for the end of February... I'll be just finishing up my stay in Korea at that point, but I'm keeping my eye on future iterations.



Anonymous Kyle said...

Interesting post. Really got me thinking. I would like to add to the idea of why people of lower socioeconomic standing are eager to obtain mobile phones.

The mobile phone has become more than a communication device. It has become a status symbol, much like a car. I often see people who are clearly of a lower socioeconomic status use Bluetooth devices and expensive smartphones and I can tell it's a means of hiding one's status.

It's also a bit of a tragedy in the sense that it will drive them to a lower rung of society in the end - not boost their status. Smartphones incur incredibly large phone bills, and the cost of maintaining this facade is heavy. I think in the future we will see a big push in government sponsored mobile education, to teach people mobile fiscal responsibility.

Keep up the great bloggin!

6:40 AM  

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