Thursday, April 03, 2003

I attended the iSociety's launch of their latest report: MobileUK: Mobile Phones and Everyday Life. It was staged as a debate about the future of 3G mobile technologies, posing the question to several panelists: "Do we really need 3G?" There was a pretty bald sense in which the collective answer was "No". 3G, in any case, was given a tepid reception, the general feeling being that it was too expensive, and that there would be no obvious benefit of such high bandwidth services for the "average consumer". A lot was said _for_ the "average consumer". iSociety's report about mobile phones is grounded in an ethnography of mobile phone users; in its focus on the specificity of mobile phone use, it complements the more exploratory and definitional work of INCITE's recent report on mobility.

It was interesting, at the debate, to watch how even a discussion with anchors in ethnographic research—in common everyday practices of use in the present—so persistently slid into the future (with competing predictions for the future pitted contentiously against one another). This movement towards the future and prediction is a common habit of conversations about new technology. In a sense, ethnographic design research locates the future in present and past behaviour rather than in prediction.