By Philip Javellana

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Nov 24, 2013 (3 years and 8 months ago)

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“Assessing Applied Mobile Communications: A Literature Review”

By Philip Javellana

Wireless communication has emerged as one of the defining technologies of our time.
Along with the Internet, wireless technologies and mobile communications have affected t
he
ways in which people communicate and organize their daily activities. While not the experience
differs with the social context, it can be said that the adoption of these technologies has had
significant impacts to societies already and have the potentia
l for more in the future.

The uses of mobile phones in different social contexts have been the subject of much
study in the past few years. Scholars have written about its uses in both the developed and
developing worlds, its potential as development tool
, its social and cultural uses and effects, and
its potential to foster and facilitate civic culture. However, there has been relatively little written
about the applied use of mobile technologies, the use of technology to achieve specific
objectives, situ
ated in larger societal and communication context. In this literature review I
layout two frameworks with which to assess the impact of applied mobile communications:
technology clusters and communication infrastructure. I then briefly discuss the advantag
es of
mobile communications over other mediums and some tools unique to the technology. Next, I
give a broad overview of the use of mobile phones in the areas of citizen journalism, political
action, public health, humanitarian assistance, and m
-
government
. Finally, I suggest the need to
apply these frameworks to specific case studies in order to obtain a more in
-
depth understanding
of the impact of applied mobile communications.




Technology Clusters

It is necessary to situate the use of mobile phones in so
ciety in the context of other
existing technologies. Sawhney (2007) addresses the importance of assessing the value of mobile
phones as part of a larger communication technology ecology. He uses the term “technology
cluster” to situate the use of mobile de
vices vis
-
à
-
vis other communication tools.
“Communication needs are met by a number of other technologies such as landline telephones,
wired Internet, and wi
-
fi enabled laptops (298).” Thus, mobile phones are not used in isolation,
but as one tool in a box

of many. Castells, et. al. (2007) point to a number of case studies in
which the mobile phone acted as an assistive or complementary technology to organize and
mobilize people. Specifically, he discusses the complimentary nature of the Internet and mobile

phones. “While the immobile Internet and mobile communication are complementary rather than
alternative means of communication, going wireless adds a significant component to the capacity
of new forms of communication to disintermediate the mass media (Ca
stells, et. al. 2007:212).”
Thus in assessing both simultaneously, one can identify the synergies between overlapping
media.

Similarly, de Vries (2003) looks at the potential of mobile technology in the context of
other communication technologies and the
political economic contexts in which they are used.
He takes a “critical symptomatic” approach to looking at the relationship between technology
and society, taking into account “the social, cultural, political, and economic factors that
determine the actu
al individual use of technology on the one hand, but on the other hand also
recognize the processes that have always been present during technological development as a
steady undercurrent (de Vries 2003 14).” Thus, understanding context of use and the ways



previous technologies were adopted is important to understanding how new technologies may be
utilized.

In context of other communication technologies, de Vries finds that, regardless of how
they develop, “all media…have one thing in common: they were ini
tially perceived as trying to
bridge space and time to such an extent that people would be able to communicate without
obstacles and without misunderstanding (2003: 27).” In other words, as the telegraph, telephone,
radio, television, and the Internet have

worked to further compress space and time, so too have
mobile phones (Harvey 1990, Silverstone 1999, Fortunati 2002). de Vries argues that with
mobile devices, “we are closer to realizing that promise by allowing person
-
to
-
person contact
almost anywhere i
n the world. More than any other medium, the mobile provides its users with
the ability to be a sender as well as a receiver of information, something radio and television do
not offer to form a uniquely identifiable node in a local or global communication

network,
independent of his or her geographical position (de Vries 2003: 23).” In the end, the adoption of
mobiles, in both the developed and developing worlds, have helped to further change the notions
of time, space, and communications. The ways this ma
nifests itself will be explored below.


Communication Infrastructure: Enabling Global and Local Civil Society


Information and

communication technologies (ICTs) have changed the notion of what is
considered civil society. Scholars have argued that, on on
e hand, we are witnessing an erosion of
community and a decline in civic engagement, and, on the other, restructuring of civil society,
new types of engagement, and participation in a global civil society (Kim and Ball
-
Rokeach
2006: 175
-
176). Kim and Ball
-
Rokeach’s (2006) communication infrastructure framework takes
an ecological approach to communication environment and communicative actions “by


articulating and empirically unveiling the communication infrastructure of diverse urban
residential environment
s (176).” They find that differences in communication infrastructures, or
neighborhood storytelling networks (NSNs)


made up of residents, neighbors, community
groups, and geo
-
ethnic media


situated in communication action contexts (e.g. schools, public

places, goods and services, etc.) , play a large role in building community and fostering civic
engagement. In this context, mobile phones both support this framework by giving NSNs new
ways to connect to each other, and also challenge it by introducing n
ews ways to connect to
people beyond place
-
based affiliations.

Foth (2006) writes that “the ubiquity of new media, network applications, and other
information and communication technologies draws attention to the hybrid nature and quality of
community, wh
ich is simultaneously both networked and individualistic (44).” In this way, it can
be argued that mobile communications provide ways for people to be cosmopolitan (Beck 2006)
by simultaneously belonging to local, regional, national, and global networks. P
eople are able to
create affiliations and form identities by engaging in both matters of local concern and global
appeal. This networked individualism is especially apparent in younger generations that have
been noted to take a more self
-
actualized approac
h to civic engagement. Bennett writes “young
citizens find greater satisfaction in defining their own political paths, including: local
volunteerism, consumer activism, support for issues and causes (environment, human rights),
participation in various tra
nsnational protest activities, and efforts to form a global civil society
by organizing world and regional social forums (Bennett 2003b: 4).” In terms of engaging with
ones local community, Foth writes “the Internet, mobile phones, and other forms of netw
orked
communication technologies contribute to the emergence of new social formations based on
more person
-
to
-
person and role
-
to
-
role relationships than door
-
to
-
door and place
-
to
-
place one


(Foth 2006: 48).” Despite this, Foth notes that place has not becom
e completely irrelevant.
“Features to support local collectivism remain relevant because discussion boards, mailing lists,
file
-
sharing areas, and so on provide crucial stools for facilitating pragmatic place
-
based
interaction (2004: 48).” We shall see ho
w the interaction between local and global social
networks as facilitated by mobile technology has material impacts in collective political action.


A word on digital divides


Any study of mobile communications would be remiss if it did not take the issue
s of
digital divides into account. While it has been implied in the frameworks outlined above, it is
worth reiterating that there are many variables that must be taken into account when assessing
the validity of claims regarding the impact of communication

technologies. It is important to
acknowledge that access to ICTs is unequal and that one’s experience with ICTs varies with the
context. For example, in their study of mobile use in Africa, James and Versteeg (2007) establish
a framework that “distinguish
es between mobile phone subscribers, mobile phone owners,
mobile phone users, those who benefit from usage, and those who have access to this technology
(118).” By examining mobile phones in this context, they take into account the nuances of the
ways peop
le engage with ICTS and provide a clearer picture of the state of mobile telephony in
Africa with regard to the divides that exist. Literature around “digital divides” acknowledges that
divides often fall around existing structural and systemic inequalitie
s. These include
socioeconomic status, gender, race and ethnicity as it relates to one’s social and cultural capital,
and the availability of infrastructure (Mansell 2006). Thus, like the communication infrastructure
and social networks explained above, it

is important to keep in mind the structural inequalities at
work in a society.




Advantages of Mobile Phones


Mobile devices offer unique capabilities that create new opportunities for organizations,
institutions and individuals to engage with each other.

Feldman (2005) writes that “mobile media
place different weight on functions known form online and traditional media and also provides
opportunities for different functions (138).” For example, while voice communications came
with the wired telephone, it
takes on new roles with the introduction of what Feldman calls
“nomadic connectivity.” Castells, et. al. (2007) highlights three main advantages of wireless
communication in the process of political mobilization:

-

Mobility
: This “adds a component of spontan
eity to potential mobilizations. It increases
the chance of reacting instantly and emotionally to a sudden event that strikes the minds
of the people (211).”

-

Person
-
to
-
Person contact
: Mobiles are “the always on tool of communication within
everybody’s netw
ork. Thus it is the appropriate platform to scale up from personal life to
social concerns (211).”

-

Multi
-
modality
: “Cell phones may transmit voice calls, text images, sounds, so that they
becoming living eyes and ears, together with minds to observe events

in real time and
share them with the network (211).”


Stein identifies speed as another advantage. “Speed is a critical aspect of advocacy campaigns,
and mobile phones allow the rapid dissemination of messages to a network of supporters with
specific cal
ls to action. Mobile phone activists can quickly sign on petitions and get involved in
other activities, cutting the response time down to a few hours. Email response time can take
several days (Stein 2008: 3).” Thus speed, mobility, person
-
to
-
person conta
ct, and multi
-
modality help establish new ways of to organize people and mobilize supporters around a
common cause. In the next section I discuss the specific capabilities of mobile technology that
are important in yielding these advantages.





SMS Messagi
ng

A particularly important function of the mobile phone is Short Messaging Service (SMS)
technology. For most users, SMS messaging is the cheapest and easiest way to communicate to
one’s network by allowing users to send 160 English characters to multipl
e mobile phones at
once and/or post that message on the Internet (Verclas and Mechael 2008: 10). Furthermore,
communication via SMS is instantaneous and gives users the ability to send, receive, and store
messages on their devices. Taylor and Vincent (200
8) state that, “on a practical level the
asynchronous messaging service transformed the way people were able to organize such things
as appointments. Arrangements could be left to the last minute or coordinated on a moment
-
by
-
moment basis to suit delays or

changed plans. The same principles were even applied to
coordinate collective action (83).” This is embodied in what Rheingold calls “Smart Mobs” or ad
hoc social networks, “a new social form made possible by the combination of computation,
communication,

reputation, and location awareness (Rheingold 2002: 169).” The New Politics
Institute states that “because SMS is a non
-
spam medium, users tend to take incoming messages
seriously. According to NPI, “over 90% of text messages are opened, whereas only a fr
action of
e
-
mail is opened And because mobile users have their phones on them at all times, they are
available to respond to outreach around the clock. Most text messages are opened within 15
minutes to an hour, whereas e
-
mail is usually opened within 24
-
4
8 hours (Alpert and Muscarella
2007, 2).” Thus we will see that SMS messages are the most widely used feature in current
mobile media campaigns.




Multimedia Messaging Services (MMS): Photos and Videos

The introduction of cameras to mobile devices has mad
e it possible for multi
-
modal
engagement to take place. “Mobile phones that have cameras can use MMS, email, or Bluetooth
to send images to other phones (Verclas and Mechael 2008: 13).” The ability to capture and
share audio and video instantly on a mobil
e phone has important implications for subverting
traditional information sources and mobilizing supporters. Current applications of this
technology can be seen in citizen journalism, which will be discussed further.


Other Emerging Technologies: Location
-
based services and Mobile Internet


Two technologies that are continuing to evolve as technological infrastructure improves
are location
-
based services and mobile Internet. GPS enabled mobile devices allow users to mine
information. Many phones today are
now able to access the Internet via 3G networks. As
mentioned earlier, the Internet and mobile technology are complimentary mediums. The
development of devices that are able to access the Internet will increase the synergies between
the two. As we shall se
e, GPS enabled phones are helping epidemiologists in studies tracking
behaviors related to public health and access to mobile Internet increases the utility of mobile
phones for some users.


Citizen Journalism


As mentioned earlier, mobile phones have hel
ped to circumvent the mass media as tool to
disseminate information. Citizen media refers to “forms of content produced by private citizens
who are otherwise not professional journalists. Citizen media is characterized by everyday
citizens producing, colle
cting, and sharing information (Verclas and Mechael 2008: 5).” In the
past, much attention has been focused on blogs and the development of the blogosphere as a


forum where citizens can engage in a free exchange of ideas. Generally, such blogs and citizen
journalism would focus “hyperlocal” concerns, or news that affects a relatively small geographic
locality (Schaffer 2007). More recently, the concept of moblogging, (mobile
-
blogging) or
mobile reporting, has come to fore. Similar to citizen journalism on
the Internet, mobile
reporting involves “citizens posting media directly from a mobile phone to the Internet or other
mobiles, and an online public. The media published may include groundbreaking news, or
stories, pictures, and information that is neglecte
d by mainstream media organizations (Verclas
and Mechael 2008: 5).” Service like Twitter, Jaiku, and Tremo help facilitate such activity.

A notable example mobile citizen journalism can be found the 2005 during the London
Underground bombings. Here, ordin
ary citizens used their mobile phones to capture the events in
the subway tunnels (Noguchi 2005). Another example occurred in 2007 at Virginia Tech when a
student captured the sounds of a gunman on a rampage. The image captured on that student’s
mobile pho
ne was used by CNN as part of their coverage of the event (Mediabistro.com 2008). It
is interesting to note that in both these cases, mainstream media organizations used amateur
content to enhance their reporting. Several mainstream news media organization
s have begun
utilizing citizen journalists are part of their reporting including CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News
Channel.

Here, it is helpful to situate mobile phone usage as part of a larger communication
context. Mobile journalism is ultimately reliant upon th
e Internet for distribution. At a practical
level, blogging sites have begun to include capabilities to receive data from mobile phones to
post directly on the Internet. This shows the interdependence of the two mediums and how one
complements the other as

method of disseminating information. The use of citizen journalism in
mainstream media also shows the evolving nature of traditional media and the growing


importance of the micro
-
media. Bennett notes that the “the distributed property of the Web
makes it
difficult for news organizations to close the gates on tempting stories that competitors
will be tempted to report if they don’t. The rise of 24/7 cable news operations makes demand for
novel information high (Bennett 2003: 32).” Thus, reporters look to al
ternative sources of
information for story ideas and to augment their capabilities. In this way, mainstream media
helps legitimize citizen media and elevate its importance as a prominent tool for civic
participation and action.


Political Action

The realm

of political action is where the use of mobile technology has most prominently
made an impact. However, here again it is important to recognize the complementary
relationship between the Internet and mobile devices as the evolution of both have helped
tra
nsform how people can engage in civic participation. Bennett states that the Internet helps to
create a global civil society by decentralizing sources information and communication. In this
way, people with access to the Internet can learn about issues of
personal importance and
relevance while allowing “activists networks to coordinate activities, plan protests, and publicize
often high quality information about their causes (Bennett 2003: 3).” Furthermore, this allows for
an open public space where inform
ation can be exchanged and transmitted globally. Such
decentralization supports segmented, polycentric, integrated networks (SPIN) to quickly
organize globally around common issues and facilitates “the coordination of activities over
networks with many nod
es and numerous connecting points” and “enables network organization
to be maintained even if particular nodes and hubs die, change their mission, or move out of the
network (Bennett 2003: 7).” Thus, activist networks are able to quickly “swarm” around


com
mon issues. Mobile communications augments the Internet’s capabilities to draw people
together regardless of their locations. Citing the 1999 World Trade Organization protests,
Rheingold describes how SPIN groups took advantage of mobile phones.

A broad c
oalition of demonstrators who represented different interests but were united in
opposition to the views of the World Trade Organization planned to disrupt the WTO’s 1999
meeting in Seattle. The demonstrators included a wide range of different affinity gro
ups who
loosely coordinated their actions around their shared objective. The Direct Action Network
enabled autonomous groups to choose which levels of action to participate in, from
nonviolent support to civil disobedience to joining mass arrests


a kind
of dynamic ad hoc
alliance that wouldn’t have been possible without a mobile, many
-
to
-
many, real
-
time
communication network (Rheingold 2002: 161).


Thus, mobile technology can be used to loosely organize groups. Another widely cited example
of the use of m
obile technology is the SMS
-
based mobilization of the “smart mob” in the 2001
ousting of Philippine President Joseph Estrada. Here, word spread via text messaging for
protesters to meet at a central location in Manila, Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (known
as
Edsa), to demonstrate against a corrupt government. It was reported that between January 16 and
20, 2001, more than one million people gathered to demand Estrada’s resignation, largely
mobilized by mobile phones (Rheingold 2002).

To be sure, other fact
ors had to be in place to stage such a successful demonstration.
Castells points out that “the existence of a relatively weak state was a prior condition for the key
role of the mobile phone and the Internet in this case. The final result might have been
different
had there been stronger state control (Castells et. al. 2007, 191).” Thus, the political environment
on the ground set the stage for the successful use of mobile phones to take action. Also it is
necessary to acknowledge that in this context that

the adoption of mobile phones did not cross all
digital divides. Therefore, organizers found it necessary to use mobiles in concert with other
media, like the Internet, radio, as well as mainstream media to deliver actual political


consequences (Castells
et. al. 2007, 193). In this way, we see the importance of communication
infrastructures and technologies clusters in assessing the impact of mobile technology.

NGOs have used mobile phones as part of advocacy campaigns to influence policy
decisions. For e
xample, Greenpeace Argentina used a mobile phone network of over 350,000
people to mobilize people to sign a petition supporting a forest protection act in Argentina. “The
organization collected about 3,000 signatures for the petition via text messaging. G
reenpeace
also sent out text messages asking people to call specific legislators to lobby for the law. Text
messages were sent out to specific audiences that would be directed to their legislator. Finally,
Greenpeace used the mobile network to send urgent
alerts about other actions or news (Kincade
and Verclas 2008: 45).” Here, we see how an NGO can organize members to influence policy by
using the Internet, grassroots campaigning, and mobile technology.

In the context of the global civil society, Oxfam Gr
eat Britain used text message
-
based
outreach as part of its Make Poverty History Campaign. Through an alliance of charities,
advocacy groups, and faith
-
based organizations, the campaign sought to mobilize people to
support the Global Call to Action Against

Poverty.

Advertisements were placed on several campaign websites and in newspapers urging
people to text the keyword ‘BAND’ to receive a white wristband, the global campaign’s
symbol. Users would then receive an automatic response requesting their name,
street
number, and postal code…A valuable byproduct of the campaign was the collection of
names and phone numbers to be used in future outreach efforts. Oxfam GB continues to
send text message alerts about public demonstrations and fundraising appeals to s
everal
thousand of its white band responders who agreed to receive future announcements
(Kincade and Verclas 2008: 39).


In this case, Oxfam used mobile media to both mobilize support for its cause as well as build in a
mechanism to support its internal ad
ministrative goals of building a list of supporters.

In these cases we see the need for of information regarding the role of mobile
communication technology. Whereas the cases of the WTO and EDSA protests have received


scholarly attention, more mundane us
es of applied mobile phone technology have not. For
example, missing from the literature regarding the Greenpeace and Oxfam cases are more robust
examinations of the roles of other communications media and a full accounting of the political
economic contex
ts in which they are used. Furthermore, the literature did not discuss issues like
list churn, those opting out to receive updates, or explain fully the use of e
-
mails and other
engagement tools to maintain contact. Nor did it discuss the differences betwe
en supporters are
pre
-
disposed to take actions and the ones that remain passive. Thus, more research is needed to
fully understand the processes at work for less high
-
level applications.



Public Health


In the area of public health, we see that mobile com
munication technologies are helping
to assist health initiatives and research. “Mobile technology has been piloted in a range of health
-
related areas, including improving dissemination of public health information, facilitating remote
consultation, diagnos
is, and treatment; disseminating health information to doctors and nurses;
managing patients; monitoring public health; and increasing the efficiency of administrative
systems (Kincade and Verclas 2008: 11).”

In Peru, it has been shown that cell phones ar
e a “feasible means of collecting and
reporting data in remote communities (Curioso, et al. 2005: 180).” In a study conducted by the
University of Washington and Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, researchers found that
they were able to successfully tr
ack adverse affects of drugs in remote areas and have the
information made available instantly on the Internet. By doing so, medical workers can prevent
women from neglecting their medication.



Other studies have shown the efficacy of GPS enabled phones to

track movement and
behavior. “GPS technology has greatly expanded the scope of space
-
time analyses by allowing
the recording of not only trip origins and destinations, but also the routes traveled (Wiehe et, al.
2008: 2).” This has implications for epidem
iologists who need to know where health related
behaviors occur, such as cigarette smoking, drug use, and unprotected sexual intercourse occur.
“GPS enabled cell phones may aid in locating where these behaviors occur and better define
paths and events prec
eding them (Wiehe et, al. 2008: 2).” In these cases, mobile technologies are
the enabling technology. However, here again, it would be helpful to consider these applications
in its greater technological and communication infrastructures, as well as their p
olitical economic
contexts.


Humanitarian Assistance


In the context of humanitarian assistance, mobile phones can serve a number of functions
including acting as an early warning system, aiding in immediate relief efforts, as well as long
-
term reconstruc
tion efforts. Kincade and Verclas (2008) present several examples of how this
can be achieved.

Telecoms Sans Frontieres provides mobile telecommunication to help reestablish
communications networks in response to and management of humanitarian crises (Kin
cade and
Verclas 2008: 34). The organization has worked around the world, in concert with other agencies
to provide communication centers for those affected by disasters. “TSF has consistently
delivered a rapid response emergency communications support to
humanitarian activities, and
has frequently provided a first line of communication for refugees and other populations affected
by disasters (Kincade and Verclas 2008: 36).”




In Kenya, text messaging was used as a violence
-
prevention tool. After the controv
ersial
2007 election, human rights advocates recognized the need to find ways to stem violence. They
“quickly mobilized by creating a text messaging nerve center. That center served as a vital tool
for conflict management and prevention by providing a hub
for real
-
time information about
actual and planned attacks between rival ethnic and political groups. The text messages, sent in
by human rights advocates, religious leaders, and others were relayed to local Peace Committees
for response (Kincade and Vercl
as 2008: 38).” By doing so, it is believed that lives were saved
and more violence avoided.


In these cases, we again see the need to situate mobile use in the context of the existing
communication infrastructures and the political, economic, social, and

cultural contexts in which
they are used. While the accounts that Kincade and Verclas provide are good starts, more
rigorous and in
-
depth assessment is needed to more fully understand the significance of the roles
mobile technology can play.


m
-

Governme
nt

Another potential area for the use of mobile phones is in initiatives for e
-
government. e
-
Government initiatives seek to provide citizens services via internet
-
based communications. The
promise of e
-
government is in lowering the barriers between the gov
ernment and its citizens.
Potentially, citizens would be able to access government agencies to do such things as pay taxes,
contact legislatures, and report on necessary local infrastructure improvements. “m
-
Government
is an extension of e
-
government so th
at citizens can access public information, obtain
government services, and/or become involved in public administration processes using their
mobile phones, PDAs, Wi
-
Fi computers, and other portable devices (Castells 2007: 101).”



Vincent and Harris (2008)
explore the possibilities of mobile communications in
government through case studies in developed countries looking at push and pull text messaging
services, Internet access to government authorities, communicating with government by
telephone, and intera
ctive mobile bar coding. They find that while some initiatives currently
exist, for the most part e
-
government services are in their infancy and the tipping point for
mainstream use is a long way off. “New technology moves us forward but it is not necessar
ily
replacing old ways of doing things. There is rhetoric that makes claims to usage of new
technologies when in reality their take
-
up is slow or non
-
existent, or…new services may merely
further the digital divide between the “haves” and the “have nots” in

society (Vincent and Harris
2008: 410).” Thus, here we find a case where while potential exists with the technology,
enthusiasm around capabilities must be tempered with recognition of the barriers to mainstream
adoption. In the United States, early obser
vations indicate that the Obama administration is
adopting the use of new media and investing in e
-
government initiatives. The tactics used in his
campaign, as well as his transition website, Change.gov, have embraced the capabilities of the
Internet and m
obile technology and are laying the foundation for greater investment in e
-
government and eventually m
-
government.


Implications and Directions for Future Research

As we have seen, there is a need to examine applied mobile technologies in a more
rigorous
manner. The sources of most of the cases outlined above were assessments done in the
vein of administrative, rather than critical research. While there were many academic papers
discussing mobile technology and its effects at macro and meso
-
societal levels

(see for example
Lantham 2007, Ito 2004, Fortunati 2002, Katz 2008), I found relatively few studies critically


examining the applied use of mobile technology in specific cases. Thus, it is necessary to
develop a framework with which to assess the applied
use of mobile communication
technologies. This should include an assessment of the political economic context of use, users’
social, cultural, and economic capital, an understanding of the local communications
infrastructure, an audit of existing technolog
y clusters with special attention paid to the reliance
of mobiles vis
-
à
-
vis other ICTs, the organizing methods used in achieving specific objectives,
and the final impacts of use. In this way, NGOs and scholars alike might better understand the
impact and
contributions of mobile technologies. With such a framework, NGOs may better
recognize opportunities for advocacy and action, while scholars would benefit from a greater
understanding of their living laboratories of technological adoption and appropriation
. Finally, it
is important to recognize that while of the tools provided by

new digital media offer distinct
advantages from traditional media, “these differences do not inherently or necessarily change
who we are or what we do together” and that the motiv
ation to take action “are more the results
of the human contexts in which communication occurs than the result of the communication
media themselves (Bennett 2003: 5).” By keeping this in mind, NGOs and scholars assess the
impacts of technology while avoid
ing making overly technologically deterministic claims.


Conclusion

In this essay, I have outlined the need to consider technology clusters, communication
infrastructures, and digital divide in assessing the impact of applied mobile communication
technolo
gy, After assessing the literature available on mobile communication initiatives, it is
apparent that there is a need for a more academic rigorous assessment of the role and impact of
mobile technology. While the case studies provided by NGOs and other org
anizations provide a


good foundation, these can be augmented with more detailed inquiry. Thus, in order to advance
knowledge in these areas, in
-
depth interviews with NGOs and organizers combined with a strong
theoretical framework would help develop a more

holistic understanding of mobile technologies
as well as the challenges and benefits that come with their implementation.



Works Cited


Alpert, J. and Muscarella, C. (2007). “Go Mobile Now” New Politics Institute
http://www.newpolitics.net/node/394

Accessed 25 November 2008


Beck, U. (2006).
Cosmopolitan Vision
. Cambridge: Polity Press


Bennett, L. (2003). “The Internet and Global Activism” Center for Communication and Civic
Engagement.
http://ccce.com.washington.edu/projects/assets/working_papers/communicatingglobalactivism.p
df

Accessed 25 November 2008.


Bennett, L. (2003b). “Civic Learning
in Changing Democracies: Challenges for Citizenship and
Civic Education.” Center for Communication and Civic Engagement.
http://
ccce.com.washington.edu/projects/assets/working_papers/bennet_civic_learning_in_chang
ing_democracies.pdf

Accessed 25 November 2008.


Castells, M., Fernandez
-
Ardevol, M., Qiu, J. and Sey, A. (2007).
Mobile Communication and
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