A short remark on (the type of) mobile phones in urban Kenya

When being asked about my PhD-research (which is on the meaning of mobile phones in urban Kenya), I all too often hear the question: „Do ‚they‘ have phones there?“

The short answer is: Yes.

A slightly longer answer, with a bit more of an interpretive touch, may well be given by a participant of my field research – the person here talks about what happens if you get robbed (which might happen in Nairobi), and a robber ‚catches‘ you with a cheap mobile phone (referred to as a kabambe in Nairobi):

Nowadays, if you walk with a kabambe, they [the thieves] even beat you up. Coz it can´t be that nowadays in Nairobi someone can walk without or doesn´t have a smartphone. field research participant (2014)

Remark: 
The word kabambe in Kiswahili refers to a very basic mobile phone, often not even a feature phone. A kabambe is typically locked to be used with one specific provider only. Its main functions usually are calling and texting – maybe also a calender, calculator and FM radio.

Example of a "kabambe" (© Michael Waltinger, 2013)

Example of a „kabambe“ (© Michael Waltinger, 2013)

Digitaler Burnout? Forschungsprojekt „Menthal Balance“ sucht (und gibt) Antworten 

Eine aktuelle Meldung des WDR (aus: Mosaik – das Kulturmagazin) macht Aufmerksam auf ein interdisziplinäres und internationales Forschungsprojekt an der Uni Bonn, welches sich mit einem hochrelevanten Thema auseinandersetzt: der potentiellen Fragmentierung des Alltags durch Smartphonenutzung. Es geht dabei – kurz und bündig – um die Frage, wie damit umzugehen ist, dass viele Menschen gehäuft Tätigkeiten im Hier und Jetzt im Schnitt knapp alle 20 Minuten unterbrechen, um ihr Smartphone in die Hand zu nehmen.

Das Menthal-Forschungsprojekt umfasst sowohl eine Android-App, mit der sich die eigene Smartphonenutzung tracken lässt (um sich damit potentiell auf „digitale Diät“ zu setzen), als auch eine umfassende Studie über den Gebrauch von Mobiltelefonen, indem über die App das Mobilfunkverhalten tausender Nutzer erhoben und ausgewertet wird.

In diesem Zusammenhang ist auch das Buch „Digitaler Burnout“ von Alexander Markowitz (2015) zu sehen. Es steht die durchaus nachvollziehbare These im Raum, dass permanente Unterbrechungen des Alltags (Fragmentierung eben) durch das Handy Flowerlebnisse (sprich: sich voll und ganz auf eine Tätigkeit im Jetzt einzulassen und konzentriert in dieser aufzugehen) unterbinden – und Flow ist eben genau das, was den Alltag ausgeglichen macht und Gefühlen der Gehetzt-Seins entgegenwirkt.

Ein Blick in die Leseprobe des Buches (das durchaus in amerikanischer Manier, d.h. recht eingängig, geschrieben ist) lässt eine differenzierte Herangehensweise an das Thema vermuten. Wohl warnende Worte, aber kein hilfloser Rundumschlag á la „Digitale Demenz“ – wenngleich das Wording in eine ähnliche Richtung geht. Der Blick ins Buch lässt vermuten, dass das Werk wohl warnen und auf Auswirkungen aufmerksam machen möchte, dabei aber doch auf medienkompetenzorientierte Lösungen abstellt. Ich werde versuchen, ein Rezensionsexemplar zu bekommen und dann mehr dazu zu sagen.

„The Ambiguity of (Media-)Technology – and how to deal with it“: Expert-table @ the „Datafication of the Public Sphere“-Symposium (AIL, Vienna)

I have recently been invited to participate in an expert-table format at the symposium „The datafication of the public sphere“, which was held from May 7th – 10th, @ Angewandte Innovation Lab (AIL), The University of Applied Arts Vienna.

Essentially, the symposium – which was an inspiring and exciting event – was generally elaborating on the everyday use of smartphones from a rather artistic-scientific angle, I would say. It was great having been together in a panel with Ingrid Fischer-Schreiber and my college Leonida Mutuku from iHub Nairobi.

The expert-table starts with an introduction of all three speakers. Leonida Mutuku opens the round with a talk on the ICT-scene in Kenya (00:05:50 – 00:23:00) followed by Ingrid Fischer-Schreiber with insights into the latest (mobile)media-devleopments in China (00:24:00 – 00:59:00). Is is then my turn to speak about the ambiguities that are inherent in (media-)technology and how to deal with those from a perspective of media pedagogy and media ethics (00:59:15 – 01:14:30). The session is followed by a discussion of about half an hour.

You may download the paper of my talk here

 

Bastard CROWD [mobile] Expert-talks: Leonida Mutuku, Ingrid Fischer-Schreiber, Michael Waltinger from Angewandte Innovation Lab on Vimeo.

Expert-talks:

Leonida Mutuku,
Ingrid Fischer-Schreiber,
Michael Waltinger.

Bastard CROWD [mobile] The performative installation bastardCROWD[mobile] of choreographer and performer Daniel Aschwanden and media artist Conny Zenk, uses the text “Bastard Culture” by media theorist Mirko Schäfer as a starting point for investigating and questioning the everyday use of smartphones.

The “Selfie”-culture is only one phenomenon in the context of virally spreading digital communication devices. Aschwanden/Zenk, having performed artistic interventions in Beijing, Accra, Addis Ababa and Vienna, emphasize the global phenomenon of superposition of traditional forms of communication through new interface cultures.

The symposium “The datafication of the public sphere” examines the implications of a rapidly increasing digitalization of society and questions the limits of participation. It also asks for options how to embrace and learn about technologies when it comes to monitoring, controlling and exploiting.
08.05.2015

http://www.ailab.at

Video: Edward Chapon

Soon: Conference-participation „The Datafication of the Public Sphere“ investigating the everyday uses of smartphones

bastardCROWD [mobile]_pogramme overview

Are you interested in artistic-scientific explorations on the everyday use of smartphones? Come to the „The datafication of the public sphere“-symposium, May 7th – 10th, @ Angewandte Innovation Lab (AIL), The University of Applied Arts Vienna. I will be there, talking about the ambiguities of media and technology. I will share the paper on this blog here, afterwards.
See you there!

What? 

The performative installation bastardCROWD[mobile] of choreographer and performer Daniel Aschwanden and media artist Conny Zenk, uses the text „Bastard Culture“ by media theorist Mirko Schäfer as a starting point for investigating and questioning the everyday use of smartphones.

The „Selfie“-culture is only one phenomenon in the context of virally spreading digital communication devices. Aschwanden/Zenk, having performed artistic interventions in Beijing, Accra, Addis Ababa and Vienna, emphasize the global phenomenon of superposition of traditional forms of communication through new interface cultures.

The symposium „The datafication of the public sphere“ examines the implications of a rapidly increasing digitalization of society and questions the limits of participation. It also asks for optios how to embrace and learn about technologies when it comes to monitoring, controlling and exploiting.

Programme:

Thursday, 7 May 2015

19:00 Opening

19:30 Keynote by Mirko Tobias Schäfer

21:00 Performance: Daniel Aschwanden, Conny Zenk, Veronika Mayer

Friday, 8 May 2015

10:00-13:00 Masterclass Mirko Tobias Schäfer

14:00-16:00 Expert-talks: Leonida Mutuku, Ingrid Fischer-Schreiber, Michael Waltinger

16:30-18:30 Expert-talks: Philipp Ehmann, Wolfgang Fiel, Matthias Tarasiewicz, Stefanie Wuschitz

19:30-20:30 Performance: bastardCROWD[mobile] Daniel Aschwanden, Conny Zenk, Veronika Mayer, Raphael Michon, Indira Nunez, Nici Rutrecht

20:30-24:00 DJ sound chill-out: David Scheidl

Saturday, 9 May 2015

10:00-13:00 Workshop masterclass: Mirko Tobias Schäfer

14:00-15:00 Lecture: Konrad Becker

15:00-16:00 Expert-talks: Bogomir Doringer, Pinar Yoldas

16:15-17:15 Lecture: Thomas Ballhausen, 17:15-19:15 Expert-talks: Boyan Manchev, Andreas Spiegl

Sunday, 10 May 2015

11:00-17:00 Workshop 1: Making Artistic Technology #2: studio praxistext: playful technologies

Where? 

ANGEWANDTE INNOVATION LABORATORY (AIL)
FRANZ JOSEFS KAI  3
1010 VIENNA, AUSTRIA

The University of Applied Arts Vienna presents the Angewandte Innovation Lab (AIL) , an ambitious project whose goal is to facilitate an exchange between various disciplines such as art, design, economy, science, and technology.

Links:

Symposium: The Datafication of the Public Sphere
Bastard CROWD [mobile]
bastardCROWD [mobile] (Facebook-Event)

„Way Out“ – an artistic reflection on (mobile) digital life

Way Out from Yukai Du on Vimeo.

‘Way out’, an MA graduation film, is inspired by ‘Alone Together’ by Sherry Turkle and a reflection of modern life in this digital age. The exaggerated contrast between emotionless citizens and characterized phones reveals our over-­‐dependence on virtual communication. A dramatic and extreme consequence shows a negative attitude, for which no one can escape the trend of technology that originally comes from the endless appetence of human beings.

Please visit http://www.yukaidu.com/Way-Out-Animation to know more about the project.

Interesting Concept: A Modular Smartphone