Skip to main content
May 14, 2010

Mobility redefined

Phone-boxBEIJING, China – For some time now I’ve considered myself mobile. My work can be done pretty much anywhere I can get an internet connection as I work exclusively online. All the people I work with have the same benefit (yep, I see that as a major benefit) and we use a selection of online tools to stay in touch and collaborate. This week, however, my definition of mobility was shown to be pretty outmoded. I’m not really mobile, but partially mobile. Read on after the jump to find out why.

This week myself and Phil have spent most of our week in Beijing with the crew who are running the newly launched China edition of Nokia Conversations. There we learned about how the reader of the China edition differs from the global edition. What surprised me most was that they’re rapidly redefining the definition of mobile, at least as I see it.

Now it might be my status as a “digital immigrant” (someone who’s of a certain age and knows what life was like with wires) rather than a “digital native” (who was born or brought up in the internet age) that leads me to being less mobile than others.

Although I live and work a pretty mobile life, there are still parts of my life which immobilise me. I still own and regularly watch TV. This, apparently, is a bit old hat. The typical readers of Nokia Conversations China don’t own a TV. They watch TV shows and movies on their laptops. This is driven largely by the fact they share an apartment, rather than live alone. But it’s also driven by how they socialise – rarely would they have friends over preferring instead to meet outside somewhere, either in the park or a restaurant or other social venue. And, by having all of their media with them, available through their phone or laptop, they’re truly mobile.

TV was just one example. As we worked through the list of technology each reader might own or want, a simple pattern emerged. Pretty much every piece of technology they owned and used could be slung in a bag and taken with them wherever they go. All of their entertainment could be consumed wherever they went.

If I want to do the same thing, I need to plan beforehand. If I want to watch a movie on the plane, I need to think about which one I watch and then decide whether to bring the original DVD or if I have a digital copy move it from my desktop to my laptop (yes, I still use a desktop).

I’m sure the users in China aren’t the only portion of the global population who are like this. Consider, for example, those users who’s only piece of technology they own is a mobile phone. But in the western world, where technology has been abundant for decades now, and where it’s hard to find a home that doesn’t contain at least one TV, we have to question how mobile we really are.

I don’t think it’s just age either. Some of my younger colleagues, who truly are digital natives, are in a similar position to me. It’s normal for us to consume our entertainment at home, even though more of it is gradually becoming more mobile. For the folks we talked about in China though, our definition of mobility doesn’t apply. I can’t help but feeling they’re coming at this whole thing from a new perspective. One much newer, and more effective, than ours. One capable of redefining the very definition of a word we in the developed world have created.

Picture by mckaysavage