Richard Walters has written a well researched article on mobility and its impact on society. Its so good, am excerpting parts of the article with some edits and comments:
Tools such as e-mail and instant messaging have been around since the dawn of the internet era, but it has taken a wireless communications revolution to turn them into a constant and inescapable fact of life for a growing part of the population. WiFi networks - assure the digitally addicted of a permanent and ubiquitous connection to the wider world. Mobile phones have turned text messages into the communications tool of choice for teenagers in Asia and Europe. For those in the grip of these new networks, life has changed. There’s no such thing as solitude any more, no fragment of time that cannot be filled with digital chatter. MIT plans to let its students continually broadcast their whereabouts to anyone in their personal social network, overlay that information on a map of the campus or town, and you could keep track of your family or friends all the time. when you free students of the need to sit in lectures - or office workers of the need to be at their desks - and place them instead in a free-flowing, virtual community “Real estate value will be based not on the square footage, but on usage,” goes some prediction. “We won’t be working from home - we’ll be working from anywhere.”
The mobile phone is already morphing into an all-purpose messaging device, capable of catching and transmitting many of the minutiae of daily life, from the short snippets of text messages to impromptu photos. Laptops are becoming windows into digital media. The virtual world is no longer behind a TV screen or on the PC: it’s with you all the time. The persistent chatter and, increasingly, the songs or TV shows being streamed over these networks are starting to seep into many aspects of everyday life. In Japan, the mobile-wielding, mini-skirted Japanese schoolgirl became a symbol of the technology’s power to disrupt social norms.For the IT executive, this has lengthened the work day. Yet, this has done little to make workers more productive. The main reason for all these extra unproductive hours “seems to be a fear of what will happen if you don’t check your e-mail before work and in the evening”. Paranoia is rife. Among the connected white-collar classes, it is now no longer done to leave the mobile - or the BlackBerry, or Treo - behind or let the battery die. Permanent access to multiple forms of communications is also producing an addiction to multi-tasking among members of the professional classes that is inevitably eating into the quality of work. Technological advances on a wide range of fronts - faster wireless networks, longer battery life, more powerful processors and memory chips - are conspiring to turn the small voice communicator in your pocket or handbag into a high-powered computer, capable of processing, storing and displaying all types of media. That may make it the next iPod, a screen for catching up on TV shows you missed last night, or a way to tap into all the photo-sharing websites and personal blogs that your nearest and dearest use to chronicle their lives. This permanent exposure to digital media and communications could really start to change the way you experience your life. And as with the arrival of that last great intruder on personal time - the television - it certainly has its detractors. Please read this full article published in Financial Times.