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Summing up Week 1

This step summarises all of the steps undertaken in Week 1 and gives learners an overview of the main points made.
Older couple using a selfie stick to take a selfie in front of a lake in Shanghai. They are dressed for winter and both looking at the smartphone.

Well, we started this week by pointing out that the smartphone spends much of its time right in front of your nose; but that this doesn’t necessarily mean that you can really ‘see it’ for what it is.

The point of this week was to get you to look at the smartphone and see aspects of its use and consequence that perhaps in some way you already knew, but hadn’t really acknowledged.

There was, however, another equally important aim. This is a course in anthropology. We haven’t just looked at the smartphone, rather we have looked through the smartphone and used it to ‘portal’ into the lives of people from all around the world, to try and understand not what the smartphone means to us, but its consequences for the people we study. In anthropology, we try to gain an empathetic appreciation for people whose lives may be entirely different from our own, but who share the planet with us.

We respect everyone equally. No one group has a more authentic experience of the smartphone than any other group. When we ask ‘what is a smartphone?’, the answer must be that it is whatever people in al-Quds, Brazil, Cameroon, Chile, China, Ireland, Italy, Japan and Uganda have turned it into. Furthermore, there is never a generic ‘Japanese’ person. Ultimately, every individual is unique, as you will have come to appreciate from your own app survey.

While this week’s content has suggested many general conclusions, based on terms we have devised for the purpose ranging from ‘social ecology’ to ‘perpetual opportunism’, these will all have different resonances depending on which population we are talking about.

As we noted, a young person who can’t afford their own home has a different experience of the smartphone as a transportal home from a migrant or an elderly person who is now house-bound.

The aim of anthropology is to help you understand the experience of people from other regions. We hope that the following two weeks will deepen that appreciation and engagement with the world around you. __Week 2 __ will tackle the topic of ageing in more detail.

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An Anthropology of Smartphones: Communication, Ageing and Health

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