Both Bob Schechter and Joe Pavlat forwarded me copies of the article, Home truths about telecoms (subscription), that appeared in the current Economist Technology Quarterly. The most interesting were these points from an interview with Stefana Broadbent,
an anthropologist who leads the User Adoption Lab at Swisscom, based on studies of users in Switzerland and France:
- "Although mobile phones make it easier to
keep in regular touch <...> a typical user spends 80% of his or her time
communicating with just four other people."
- Different channels serve different purposes. Mobile calls are for last-minute co-ordination. Texting is for “intimacy, emotions and efficiency.” E-mail is to exchange pictures, documents and music. IM and voice-over-internet calls are “continuous channels”, open in the background while people do other things.
- Writing is on the increase. “Users are showing a growing preference for semi-synchronous writing over synchronous voice,” says Ms Broadbent.
- Private communications are invading the workplace. Workers expect to be plugged into their social networks while at work, whether by e-mail, IM or mobile phone.
- Traveling workers use airports and hotels for email, delaying substantive work until they are back at their desks.
- It is migrants, rather than geeks, who have emerged as the “most aggressive” adopters of new communications tools.
Not the way I thought about anthropologists, so I doubled checked the definition of anthropology, finding this at Wikipedia:
... cultural and social anthropology has been distinguished from other social science disciplines by its emphasis on in-depth examination of context, cross-cultural comparisons ..., and the importance it places on long-term, experiential immersion in the area of research, often known as participant-observation.
Indeed, Stefana and her lab appear to be immersed in their studies.