160 digits to change our way of life

In one of my earlier articles I was writing about how popular sending text messages is in the Philippines. Additionally, I mentioned the power of technology to change our social behavior in one of my earlier articles. The media or technologic determinism is explained quite well by Neil Postman and also Jacques Ellul. There you will also find a lot of references and examples.

I spent the last weeks observing the impact of the technology of the short message system on a society. It is not nearly an accurate study or emperical survey but I would like to share some impressions with you. First, you should now that a text message here in the Philippines (same network) costs 1 Peso, around 0,012 Euro which equals roughly 0,016 Dollar. Furthermore, different network carriers have different (all-time) promotions. My carrier for example offers UNLIMITED texting for 5 days for only 80 Pesos or 1,35 Euro. Another promotion is 75 text messages to the same network and 10 to other networks without expiring for 20 Pesos which equals 0,35 Euro. Furthermore, network coverage is pretty good. I had good network status even on my lonely island and on an active vulcano, not that bad.

Let us have a look at some implications which also includes behavioral aspects:
1. Texting to fight boredom. At least in the cities there are a lot of people (especially in the security area) whose job it is to do nothing for about 95% of the day (if there is not suprising riot or something like that). In each and every corner there is a member of the security staff and what are they doing? Texting. Apart from watching what is going on and enjoying the 38 degrees Celsius that is the only thing they can do. Thus, I believe that texting really helps these guys to do their job and not die out of pure boredom. That means probably that they can do their job because is something which gives them distraction.
2. Change in business communication. A lot of communication in the business and government sector is done buy texting. Of course there is a lot of sensitive or face-to-face needing conversation but the rest is most likely done by texting. That does not only connect these people closer because it can be done anytime with the knowledge that the recipient has the opportunity to read and answer it instantly. It also enhances the communication and at the same time brings it on a very personal level with being accessible 24/7 – if you choose to.
3. People sit around the table and manage not to talk to each other because everyone of them is texting with other people. So at the same time where we overcome distance (with this people) we manage to create a distance to the people we are physically near.
4. Information is shared anytime, everywhere. From ‘what did you just eat for breakfast’ to ‘meet you in 1 minute’ everything will be shared and texted. Do I really care that my friend just had a Pandesal for breakfast? At least it improves the opportunities for gossip…
5. Not receiving text messages can easily be perceived as having not friends or not being important. However, I refuse texting myself.
6. Very serious things are discusses via txting because it is perceived as a regular means to the end of communication

That were just some thoughts and I am pretty sure that giving it more time I can come up with a far longer list. The point is that behavior and social environments change to the use of this particular technology. Of course, the use is closely connected to the policies. If texting would not be that cheap it would not be applied in the same sense and therefore would have less effect on our society. Thus, certain ICT technologies can promote change in our society even though I am not quite sure that this is controllable to a large degree. Funny thing though: The Philippine government wanted to tax text messages…guess what policy did not make through the two chambers of parliament…

Homework for you: Have a look on the technologies you use, imagine a world without this technology and then virtual what would change in your personal but also the societal behavior.

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