By Xeni Jardin
Blue-haired Harajuku high schoolers thumb-text distant pals on stickered keitai. Cell phones become cookie brokers, beaming snack requests to vending machines that zap back digital payment demands. Teen girls book illicit "compensation dates" with salarymen, sending snapshots to potential johns via camera-phones.
The popular myth of Japan as a surreal, warp-speed incubator for all things handheld and digital is nothing new.
But rarely do outsiders have an opportunity to venture beyond iconic anecdotes for a matter-of-fact understanding of how mobile technology shapes that country's culture -- and our own.
Personal, Portable, Pedestrian: Mobile Phones in Japanese Life is touted as the first English-language book to attempt just that, and it succeeds.
Co-edited by University of Southern California research scientist Mizuko Ito, Keio University lecturer Daisuke Okabe and Misa Matsuda of Tokyo's Chuo University, the book debunks popular assumptions about why mobile culture evolved as it did in Japan.
Through a series of real-world case studies, it examines the relationship between mobile technology and Japanese society. In doing so, it sheds light on the way handheld connectivity tends to reshape cultures worldwide. (more...)