Tuesday, December 05, 2006

cell phone, mobile, or keitai?

Mobile culture is one of the topics I'm most interested in nowadays.
Recently, I came across Mimi Ito's blog (I believe it was via Jan Chipchase's blog, but I'm not sure, just way too many feeds). She has edited the book "Personal, Portable, Pedestrian: Mobile Phones in Japanese Life", about the meaning of the mobile (cell) phones in Japan, from where the excerpt below was taken:
"In contrast to the cellular phone of the United States (defined by technical infrastructure), and the mobile of the United Kingdom (defined by the untethering from fixed location), the Japanese term keitai (roughly translated, ‘‘something you carry with you’’) references a somewhat different set of dimensions. A keitai is not so much about a new technical capability or freedom of motion but about a snug and intimate technosocial tethering, a personal device supporting communications that are a constant, lightweight, and mundane presence in everyday life."
I just thought it was striking that the Japanese have actually chosen a Japanese word to define their mobile handset. They have one of the most permeable cultures, at least when it comes to naming new objects and habits, happily adopting the English name, or a modified form of the English version (sarariman for "salary man", pasucom for "personal computer", chiketto for ticket, and so on).
But keitai, or "something you carry with you", really brings the mobile (or cell phone) to a higher level of intimacy and presence. It practically becomes an extension of the body, which might help explain the ubiquitous, almost symbiotic relationship the Japanese have with their mobile phones.

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