Going Mobile in Different Cultures

Moconews offers its reading today of the Wireless World Forum‘s mobileYouth 2006 report, a forecast of broad market trends for mobile technology among the youth demographic.

The statistic barked in press releases about the report is that UK tweens will spend around $30K each on mobile services during their lifetimes. But the more intriguing and valuable data is further down: that youth use mobile services like SMS and mobile email at home more often than when not at home. These and other findings, the report goes on, should motivate MVNOs to rethink their strategies in their quest to grab a piece of that 30K spend over the next few decades. MVNOs should concentrate on affect, not apps.

The finding about home usage is revealing about the transformative potential of mobile communications. In prior posts (such as this one) I’ve written that we should look to cultural differences to understand what drives differences in adoption of mobile technologies and the various services MVNOs and telcos offer (following insights from Mizuko Ito‘s research into ketai). The working assumption is that Western youth have been slower to adopt mobile data services because they have a reduced need for a private sphere of communication as compared to youth in Japan or China, due to differences in household organization, size, and family relationships. Youth in Japan are constrained inwardly (into their mobiles) and outwardly (out into public settings), while UK youth are merely constrained inwardly, so the data would suggest.

If this hypothesis is correct, we can speculate about the possible social consequences of going mobile in different cultures. Because of their enculturation, could it be that Western youth feel compelled to anchor themselves to digital lifestyle hubs (remember that expression?) and subcultural identities, while Asian youth tend to move around, both geographically and aesthetically?

Just an idea.

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