Social Resilience in Action: Subversive Uses of Mobile Technology in Brazil

Social Resilience in Action: Subversive Uses of Mobile Technology in Brazil

Adriana Braga (Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio), Brazil & National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq), Brazil) and Robert K. Logan (Ontario College of Arts and Design, Canada & University of Toronto, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5970-4.ch014
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Abstract

Recent statistics about the mobile phone market in Brazil state that for every 100 inhabitants there are 130 mobile phones. Despite the euphoria that those numbers bring to business, the social uses of mobile technology in Brazil tells a lot about Brazilian society and culture itself, and show a more complex picture than merely a marketing phenomenon. The authors examine subversive cell phone use in Brazil against the background of the cell phone use worldwide and the social implications of that cell phone use. As soon as a technology is implemented in a culture, it is possible to observe uses that were not intended by the inventors or producers of that technology. People create different strategies to take advantage of the new resource. Using social interaction theories and an ethnographic approach in the natural setting of cell phone use in Brazil, the authors observed how people use the mobile phone technology for interpersonal communication. This chapter addresses three subversive uses of mobile technology, namely, i.) strategies of mobile phone coding; ii) SIM card management; and iii) criminal uses of mobile phones.
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Background: Culture And Technology Of The Cell Phone

The electric implosion now brings oral and tribal ear-culture to the literate West. McLuhan (1964, p. 50)

When McLuhan wrote this line he was probably thinking about television and other electric media of his day but in light of the emergence of cell phones it takes on added meaning. McLuhan would probably suggest that the reason that the cell phone is even more ubiquitous in some Latin American nations like Brazil and some Asian nations like Korea and Japan than it is in North America and Europe is because they are closer to their oral roots than the industrialized nations. Who knows this probe may even be correct.The content of the cell phone is the spoken and written word, hence the cell phone extends the ear, the voice, the spoken word, the written word and the mind, but it also extends the telephone system through radio transmission. There is a cascade from the mind to the spoken word to the transmitting cell phone to the receiving cell phone or telephone to the ear of the receiving party.We can gain an insight to the cultural and social effects of the cell phone by making use of McLuhan’s Laws of Media which state that every technology and every medium enhance some function, obsolesces the previous way of achieving that function, retrieves something from the past and flips into its opposite. The cell phone enhances the mobility of telephone communication and its accessibility, obsolesces the landline, retrieves nomadic existence, and reverses into a lack of privacy.

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