Posts Tagged ‘sms

26
May
08

Anything you can do, my phone can do better!

Mobile media’s potential power is becoming more and more apparent as time goes on. So much so that big name companies who usually use traditional means to get their product recognised, are using different mobile technologies.

Imagine you are walking down the street, past a billboard advertising the newest Nike shoes. You don’t really notice it that much, and you don’t intend on visiting a Nike shop. But then your phone starts behaving like a crazed animal in your bag, beeping and vibrating until you pick it up and give it the attention that it wants.

It’s a message, from Nike, sent to your phone using Bluetooth technology. Bluetooth allows electronic devices to communicate wirelessly, but only from a short range. It tells you that if you run to the nearest Nike store you could win a brand new pair of Nike Zoom shoes, which were advertised on the billboard you passed by.

Then you arrive at the bus stop, and you get another message on your phone, sent via Bluetooth. It says:

I’m watching u. Ur at the bus stop.”

Now you’re a bit creeped out but then a few seconds later you get another message, this time saying:

Big Brother is back. 7pm weeknights on Ten.

This is a message from the producers of Big Brother in Australia. Their new season is starting and they want as many people to tune in as possible.

Now despite the obvious annoying, spam-like quality of these types of messages (but remember that one can only receive Bluetooth messages of your Bluetooth is turned on), it happens to be an ingenious advertising technique that is utilising mobile technology. And one that confirms for me that we can so many things off our cellphones, and these can be done simply and cheaply.  

Users can use search tools like Google, you can check Facebook, you can chat to friends really cheaply through a number of different devices such as Mxit and Meep, you can internet bank, you can blog, you can shop online, you can find out breaking news using news websites or social media sites like Twitter, you can even take a guided tour of South Africa’s historical sites using your cell phone!

So with all this new mobile technology and the obvious convenience of it all, what is there that we can’t do on our cell phones?

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28
Apr
08

Are we becoming a little illiterate?

Everywhere you turn, every form you fill out and every job you apply for asks about your technical literacy. How good are you on computers and other technologies? Do you know how to use the internet? And what about Excel? But the question is what happened to plain old literacy.

After doing a bit of research into the mobile phone’s impact on literacy I found a whitepaper from mobile makers, Nokia, looking at developing new cell phones that will allow illiterate people to use them effectively. This would include using more icon based interfaces, with minimal features, automated phone settings, spoken menus and audio feedback.

I found this rather alarming. The United Nations estimates that 799 million adults are illiterate, the majority of these come from underdeveloped areas like South Africa. Surely instead of just developing a new cell phone that illiterate people can use easily, they could put that funding towards teaching people to read and write? While logistically, and financially this may not even be an option, in an ideal world it would happen.

What I am more concerned about is not so much people who are currently illiterate and using mobile phones but people who fall into the category of being literate and are using cell phones.

With mobile phones having such potential in terms of use, there is no need for you to find information in the library, everything is at your fingertips. If you need to check a fact, you can use Google off your phone. If you are bored no longer do you have to (gasp) pick up a book, you can simply log onto Meep, Mxit or Facebook and chat to your friends.

This weekend I was marking first year assignments and was horrified when I stumbled upon an assignment that was using the shorthand that is often used in sms.

I was presented with sentences like “This yr Scifest Africa wil b held in Grahamstown, and u can chck out th 500 events.”

This is what is being presented in an academic assignment, and this is one of the milder examples. When I Facebook my younger sister I cannot for the life of me understand what she is saying to me. Half the letters are not there and there are funny little icons in the middle of words. Here is a taste of what I have to decipher:

“Hey trace.lol bout work!skool is goin kewl&goin wel en u?Hwz da digs&hw are ur frends.Spk2amy da oth day.brb!”

I think it may be important to note here that not only does my sister attend a private school, she also appears to be passing.

UNESCO defines illiteracy as a ‘person who cannot with understanding both read and write a short simple statement on their everyday life.’ I would categorise any student who wrote their assignments in the shorthand used in sms as illiterate, or at least having a degree of illiteracy.

With having cell phones moving towards a more visual and voice based functionality, where will people learn to read and write properly? Kids are communicating on Mxit using this odd language and it is being transferred to academic work, without them even realising it. Whether this is laziness and a lack of proofreading or it is subconscious I will never know. The problem is here. The question is what do we do about it?