Mobilology Today – May 30, 2011

 

 

Hello!  This is my first blog post for Mobilology Today, so I thought I’d give a quick description of what Mobilology is, why I’m so interested in it, and what you can expect from this blog.

First a Little Background
About eight years ago, I knew very little about the mobile phone industry except that I had a cell phone.  I was talking with Ralph Simon (www.mobilium.com), acknowledged as the ‘Father of the Ringtone,’ who observed that mobile phones were changing everything from behavior to economics.  I agreed with him.  (In 2004, he was the first to correctly predict the impact of social broadcasting.)  We spoke about writing a book together or teaching a class, and I pursued Ralph for at least a year to do this with me.  Eventually, I figured out he has a million great ideas, he travels far too much to pin him down, and he isn’t interested in following each great idea he has to its logical conclusion.  So I asked if I could take the ball and run with it.  Which is exactly what I’ve done, with his blessing.

I also have to credit Ted Cohen, managing partner of TAG Strategic.  I chatted briefly with him at a CTIA conference, about five years ago, about establishing Mobilology as a bona fide academic field of study.  He literally laughed in my face.  I felt like the skinny kid on the beach with the big muscleman kicking sand on me.  But that’s the moment my “I’ll show you!” spirit kicked in.

So just what is Mobilology?
It’s the study of the effects of mobile phone use on behavior; community; culture; entertainment; economics; education; and health.  In other words, it’s the examination of mobile and wireless technology as drivers of profound social and economic change and innovation.

Mobilology does not deal with technical issues of mobile and wireless devices, such as electronics standards and engineering, speed and data capacity, or network interoperability.  However, hardware design and software functionality would be considered part of Mobilology because consumer behavior and demand drive the ways in which devices are designed to look and to perform.

Mobilology also would encompass scholarship that examines the unprecedented shift in the mobile consumer-manufacturer relationship.  Elsewhere in the consumer electronics sector (such as content players, televisions, or musical equipment), manufacturers traditionally have created new devices (Blu-ray; HDTV; 3D-TV) and then depended on advertising, marketing and sales forces to convince consumers they ‘need’ a better, faster, sexier product.

Yet with mobile phones, that relationship radically and permanently changed.  Consumers began to personalize as well as interact with their mobile devices, and started telling manufacturers what they liked and wanted next.  Those manufacturers that didn’t listen and learn saw their customers jump to their competitors who did.  And once anyone added a feature consumers liked, they then demanded it in everything new from then on.  This, essentially, killed many products in development or already in the pipeline that didn’t yet have those preferred features.

My Original Plan vs. Reality
My original plan was to write a book about Mobilology with Ralph, and we hoped a university would grant us a PhD for our work, provided it was dissertation quality.  We spoke with folks at NYU, USC and even the University of Dundee in Scotland.  Except for NYU, my own alma mater, the people we met all understood the value of our message, but couldn’t figure out how to fit us into their existing system.  Especially without funding.  Such is the plight of anything innovative.  We offered countless suggestions, all to no avail.

So I decided to write a book – not for a PhD – in which I interviewed 25 of the top people in the mobile industry and used their own words to show the value for high-level study of mobile as a social science.  Shortly after I started, I realized the mobile industry was moving at such breakneck speed that any book I wrote would contain outdated or irrelevant information by the time it was published.

In the Meantime…
I read as much as I could – books, newspapers, magazines and online – and attended various conferences, taking notes and collecting business cards.

It soon became evident if I wanted to play in the big league, then I needed to attend the Mobile World Congress (www.gsmworld.com), held annually in Barcelona.  Seeing 50,000 men and women scurrying about in one place to buy, sell, regulate and innovate a plethora of mobile and wireless products, services, bandwidth and, essentially, the future, convinced me I was on the right track and needed to go at this full speed ahead.

I talked up Mobilology to anyone who would listen then, and I’ve continued to do so at every available opportunity ever since.  With each passing year, more and more people understand what I’m proposing and see its relevance.  My keynote address at TheNextWeb Conference (www.thenextweb.com)in 2010 brought increased awareness to a young and influential audience about unconscious daily choices we make regarding mobile use.  My keynote address later that same year to a group of C-level IT executives at MobileWorld 2010 (www.MobileWorld2010.com) in S. Korea spread the message that IT covers only some of the issues related to mobile and wireless communication.

The Big, Big Picture
My goal is to establish Mobilology as a new social science at the university level around the world.  Exposing undergraduates to Mobilology as a field of study will encourage advanced research at the Master’s- and PhD-level.  Once Mobilology achieves traction on a large enough scale, it becomes possible to create a matrix connecting all the people involved in its study.  As global academic players become identified, it becomes possible to gather meta-data for information and implications that only can be imagined now.

With even a nascent framework of academics in place, it becomes possible for the first time to connect global mobilologists with members of the global mobile industry: telcos, handset manufacturers, information architects, software designers, etc.  Linking academics and enterprise provides mutual benefits: industry needs the insight of individual academics; and, to pursue their relevant hypotheses, academics need the funding so often available through enterprise.

My vision is to see increased mobile-centric cross-disciplinary collaboration for the dual goals of greater innovation and responsible industry growth at the same time.  The GSMA has expressed an interest in my work and has begun initiatives to make education a part of its own mission.

What Mobilology Today Will Do
Conveniently, Mobilology currently has seven basic sectors identified, and there are seven days a week.  Each day, I plan to write about one sector.  I may comment on recent news, suggest interesting articles I’ve come across, or pose questions about issues I’m interested in.  Maybe you’ll be interested, too.  After the blog’s been up for awhile, I’ll open it to comments.

I already have a large database of professors, researchers and other people around the world involved either directly or peripherally in Mobilology.  If you are reading this and recognize your work, or that of an associate, as being related to the effects of mobile use on behavior, community, culture, entertainment, economics, education or health, please contact me by email at florie@brizelmedia.com.

Cheers for now!