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The perpetual opportunism of the smartphone

The smartphone helps us experience perpetual opportunism: it is now possible to be in contact, take a picture or buy something whenever you want.

An influential book about the mobile phone was called Perpetual Contact (edited by Katz and Aakhus, you can see Step 1.7 of this course for more details) because the advent of the mobile phone was the first time people could be constantly in touch. But as the short film above shows, ‘perpetual opportunism’ in relation to the smartphone means so much more. It is now possible to be in contact, take a picture or buy something whenever you want and from wherever you are.

After having watched the video, consider this concept in terms of your own experience and the way smartphones are used by people around you. Does this give you further insights into the use and consequences of smartphones? What would you add to this film?

As academics, we have further questions to ask:

What would be the wider consequences of ‘perpetual opportunism’? Does it change our perception of the world?

Perhaps it creates a more short-term outlook that is only concerned with the present moment, or conversely, it means we can spend more time planning?

Perhaps it makes our view of the world more superficial, or perhaps it alerts us to the world in a way comparable to mindfulness?

Or perhaps it makes no difference to our wider experience of the world around us, and we should just consider this in terms of the way we exploit the potential of this new device?

A longer discussion of this topic can be found in chapter 5 of The Global Smartphone, which is linked below.

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An Anthropology of Smartphones: Communication, Ageing and Health

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