Book of the Month - August

Personal, Portable, Pedestrian: Mobile Phones in Japanese Life

There is a belief in the western world that Japan is some sort of mythical haven for geek gadgets - a sort of surreal warp-speed incubator for everything that is handheld and/or digital.

The reality is that "warp-speed" would be a hideous understatement.

The poor gajin on this side of the pond haven't got a clue as to the depth and pervasiveness of mobile electronics in the Land of the Neon Chrysanthemum. The entire culture is shaped, driven, and mutated by the all-powerful keitai - Japanese for cell phone - and it's mobile offspring. Even the name gives a hint at the alien-to-us perception of cell phones in that country - keitai means "something you carry with you". The name doesn't refer to the function, it refers to the addiction to the device.

All of this can verge on the unfathomable for us occidental mopes - case in point: while North Americans lust after smaller and smaller phones, the Japanese prefer larger models for easier text messaging and (I kid you not) more room for stickers. But there is a fascinating and tantalizing peek behind the curtain of mystery in Personal, Portable, Pedestrian: Mobile Phones in Japanese Life ... a collection of essays and studies from the crucible of personal communication technology. Everything from teenage girls arranging "compensation dates" with salarymen, to the historical precedents of folk characters from the 18th century, to pre-paying for lunch from a vending machine as you ride the elevator to the cafeteria is explored and investigated in this collection.

You will never look at your thumbpad in the same way again. Highest recommendation.

Posted: Tue - August 23, 2005 at 02:21 PM