Document Type

Journal Article


David Gauntlett, in his foreword to Japanese Cybercultures, notes the tendency in the anglophone West to ‘assume that people in other countries, using other languages, are probably doing things with Internet technology that are pretty similar to those applications we are familiar with’ (Gauntlett, 2003, p. xii; emphasis in the original). However, as that collection goes on to make clear, particularly regarding mobile Internet applications, this is not always the case. As a researcher with a background in Japanese studies, in an attempt to help undergraduate students think critically about the interrelationship between society, culture and (new) technologies, I try to encourage them to consider that technologies have a history and that the meanings underlying their deployment are highly culture specific. Until recently the (now ubiquitous and quotidian) mobile phone was a helpful example to use. However, this particular technological innovation is becoming increasingly difficult to debate in class, since few students can remember a time before mobile phones and not one grew up in a household (as I did) where the landline telephone was a seldom-used late arrival. (My mother first rented one solely for ‘emergencies’, of which we thankfully had precious few. Accordingly, that original phone set lasted my family for 20 years.)