It used to be about "mobile access" but that's not it anymore. Our portable devices are now access, participation and creation devices. The rise of the decent camera on the phone and the ease with which pictures and video can be posted, tweeted and even emailed or texted has made us all photojournalists, inspectors and, most importantly, actors in our own stories.
It's a Mobile World
This has a dramatic impact in every sphere of life from the personal -- where I can document the charming antics of my children and share them with whomever is in my address book, to the professional -- where I can scout locations and send back information to the team, to the political -- as we watch the map of the Middle East and Africa redraw the in real time.
It is no longer enough to look up the meeting room schedule at a conference -- you must be able to update it or even relocate it from your pocket while standing in a random corner of the convention center.
The statistics are quoted and quoted again. But the story is this -- we're very mobile now. It is vastly more common to have a mobile phone than a land line, especially in the developing world. In the US, every child wants, and most who's ages are in double digits, have a phone -- with a keyboard of some kind, at that.
There are tectonic shifts in the work-world -- the pace of change, the complexity of problems, new, more fluid organizations and ways of working -- mobility is playing its part.
Fundamentally Changing How We Live & Work
Any discussion of mobile is, in my opinion, incomplete without reference to some of the most exciting research on youth and mobile by Graham Brown. Graham is so prolific and profound in this area, it's hard to make a comparison, but start here:
While Graham focuses on youth, what he's documenting is that mobile has fundamentally changed how we live.
The importance of mobile can be told by the numbers, by the level of effort and rush of new products into the market or by a few vignettes of modern life.
Note that the critical change we've seen in the last 6 months is that mobile is no longer about access -- it's about full "anywhere" participation. Nothing less will do.
Three Personal Mobile Stories
Losing my shape trying to act casual...
You have some variation of this story of your own, I'm sure. I was in London when my Blackberry was run over by a lorrie. I would almost have preferred to have lost my passport. At least I could have gotten that replaced at the Embassy. I was untethered and twitchy. I had lost contact with my colleagues, my home and the group of people in London that I worked with. Of course, I had my laptop -- but I had no office there, so it was very awkward to rely upon.
People are deeply invested in their mobile devices, and they solidly bridge the gap between personal and business in a way that Facebook and Twitter don't get close to. People feel they need their phones. If something is valuable, and accessible, it will be used.
Black and white to technicolor....
My boss is laughing himself to tears over my newly inarticulate, sometimes indecipherable, email style. He let me expense the, shiny, expensive, new iPhone, and I can't type on it.
And yet it is a big improvement over my last phone -- because I can see internet information again in the format that it is meant to be seen. Only smaller. I can see! I can get online! I have apps! But I can't type. Darn. My lovely ipad -- only marginally better for text, lovely for gestures and reading.
Access itself is really, really important -- but participation is equally so.
Funny bumping into you here.
As I get off the plane, nose buried in the iPhone I adore, but still can't type on, I nearly trip over the airport shoe-shine person who is typing (I'm so jealous) on his Blackberry.
This is not just about us. It about all of us.
For a while we were satisfied with email and the ability to (barely) read and respond to them. But that's no longer enough. We need equal decipher-ability on the phone as we do at our desk. We need even fuller participation.
Two years ago, my colleague, Michael Edson, was talking about mobile at the Smithsonian. He indicated it was absolutely imperative to the museum experience. I thought he was a bit shrill to be honest. But he was not shrill, he saw what I didn't then, but do now. We have fewer and fewer passive experiences. And a place of learning especially -- as the Smithsonian is and should ever be -- cannot survive as a passive experience.
We are all photojournalists of our experiences and our journalistic contributions are making the world a richer, more navigable place. We -- and I mean we in the broadest possible sense here -- are also changing the face of world politics, freedom and justice. As John Hancock used pen and ink, and Paul Revere used his horse, we now have cell phones to declare war on authoritarian regimes.
Mobile means never having to say I'm clueless.
Oh, and one more thing. I have two kids. One is 11 and the other 6. The 6 year old is the primary user of the iPad in our family. She does not need any instruction, nor does she find it the least bit notable that I can photograph her antics and email them to grandma in real time. She's the one to watch.
Editor's Note: More on the mobile enterprise:
- Creating the Mobile Enterprise: Embracing Openness
- Is Enterprise 3.0 the "Mobile Enterprise"?
- Enterprise Information Mobility: How Smart is Your Smartphone?