TIME Magazine, mobile technology and our world

Niña Terol
How has mobile technology changed the way we create and consume media, interact with others and even save lives?

A MUST-READ FOR all wireless users

MANILA, Philippines – For its August 27, 2012 issue, international weekly magazine TIME pays homage to smartphones and mobile devices in its first mobile technology issue that shows “10 ways” in which smartphones and other mobile devices such as the iPad are “changing the world.”

In a video welcoming readers to the issue (which can be accessed by scanning the images on the “Editor’s Desk” section with the TIME mobile app for iPhone and Android) editor Richard Stengel points out, “Our cover this week, in fact, is made up of images sent by you, via Instagram — more than 30,000 images from all over the world, all 7 continents.” 

Mobile phone as professional camera

Scanning the cover, in turn, reveals another video. Here, photographer Michael Christopher Brown offers tips for taking good photos on a mobile phone. 

“With a mobile phone on the street, if you want to photograph people candidly, you can get close and you can experiment. You can take pictures in new ways,” he says.

One of the tips that he shares is: “Trust your instincts. When you’re taking a picture of something, you can be surrounded by your friends, and maybe they’re photographing… a person or a building or a street in a certain way.

“But if you see something a little different, trust that — like if you think that you should go the other side and photograph it from a little different angle, try it out. Have fun with it and experiment.” 

In fact, Stengel points out that, “Every photography in the package was originally shot on a mobile phone camera, from the photojournalistic images to the portraits and the still lifes.”

The realities of mobile phone use

Of course, photography isn’t the first thing that people do with their mobile phones, although 77% percent of mobile phone users surveyed in India say that they do just that.

In an article revealing the results of the TIME Mobility Poll (a survey conducted by wireless technology company Qualcomm with 5,000 respondents in 8 countries), it was shown that Indian mobile phone users have been the most affected (compared to those from the US, Brazil, Canada, South Korea and the UK) by the built-in camera features of a mobile phone.

Indian respondents also scored the highest (57%) when asked if they “need to have the latest technology.”

Interestingly, over 80% of Indian respondents also said that “mobile technology has helped me achieve a better balance between work and family.”

But when asked where people place their mobile devices “while sleeping at night,” 68% of respondents admitted that the phones were just “next to my bed.”

48% of South Korean respondents also admitted that “they spend too much time looking at their mobile device and not observing the world.”

Up to 71% of respondents also admitted to using their mobile devices while eating at a restaurant — in fact, 17% of all respondents revealed that “they check their phone at every meal regardless of whom they’re dining with.”

In China, at least 60% of respondents revealed that the “mobile device come at times between you and your spouse.”

A “majority” of Chinese respondents have also admitted to using text messages to “coordinate or commit adultery.”

Mobile phone as lifeline

The social functions of a mobile phone are there to stay, but what is also interesting to know more about are the ways in which mobile technology is changing the way people give to charities, learn lessons in school and even save lives, among other things. 

The article “iPad, M.D.” by Kate Pickett, shows how iPads are drastically improving “working conditions and patient care” at some hospitals and medical schools in the U.S.

“A study of the University of Chicago iPad project published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that patients got tests and treatments faster if they were cared for by iPad-equipped residents. Many patients also gained a better understanding of the ailments that landed them in the hospital in the first place,” Pickett reports.

A cool bonus for doctors is that they can now use new lab coats outfitted with larger pockets designed to hold their tablets snugly in place as they go about their work.

In Uganda, meanwhile, technology has yet to catch up but even text messaging is enough to save lives.

An article “Disease can’t hide” by Belinda Luscombe shows how SMS, through a project sponsored by UNICEF, is allowing health care workers “to text details of drug supplies and disease outbreaks that they had previously put on paper.”

Meanwhile, another UNICEF-sponsored group called U-report crowdsources information from its 140,000 members to “send and receive information about development issues, including health. These texts can be targeted; mothers can be alerted to free vaccinations in the area, for example.”  

The cost of maintaining these SMS-enabled tools to the Ugandan Ministry of Health? “About US$14 per district per month,” Luscombe reports.

The darker side of technology

If you go to page 41, you will see a large, close-up photo (taken on an iPhone, apparently) of a miner’s dirt-covered hands holding a rock.

This is the opening of Michael Christopher Brown’s series of stunning photo essays showing just what it takes to build the components of a mobile phone. 

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, miners are constantly digging for coltan and cassiterite, which Brown explains are “both key to electronic circuitry,” and tourmaline, “which helps regulate electrical charges in high-tech consumer devices.” These minerals are essential to the global electronics industry and help to power many of the gadgets we now enjoy.

However, as Brown reports, “a potpourri of armed groups and governments have used conflict minerals as the latest way to help fund the warfare, atrocities and repression that have afflicted the area for more than a century.”

“At a Heal Africa clinic in Goma, I met an emaciated teenage girl who had been gang-raped by three Hutu militiamen allegedly funded by profits from the mines,” Brown further reveals.

The images make one think of the costs of having this mobile-enabled lifestyle that many now enjoy. So does the article “The phone knows all” by Massimo Calabresi. Here, Calabresi breaks down some of the major privacy issues in the US and how technology companies are dealing with them.

One senior executive from a software company was quoted as saying, “No app is free… You pay for them with your privacy.”

Just how much power we, the users, will give mobile devices is ultimately up to us. 

As with many things, technology is neither positive nor negative; its benefits and its dangers are defined by the communities that use it.

TIME’s first Wireless Issue may be pointing out things that we already intuitively know about technology and about ourselves.

How else our mobile phones will change the world is really, quite literally, all in our hands. – Rappler.com

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