Photo by Danni Li.

Book Report: Mobile Communication and Society—A Global Perspective

For this week’s Digital Social Media Today blog, I will introduce a book—"Mobile Communication and Society: A Global Perspective." The lead author of this book is Manuel Castells, who is professor of Communication and the Wallis Annenberg Chair in Communication Technology and Society at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Professor Castells is one of the most intelligent and smartest individual I have ever know, and he is major reason I decide to choose this book.


As it mentioned in the opening of the book, communication is at the heart of human activity in all spheres oh life, the advert of this technology, allowing appropriate infrastructure, raises a wide range of fundamental questions. Mobile communication, thus, is to enhance the autonomy of individuals, enabling them to set up their own connections, bypassing the mass media and the channels of communication controlled by institutions and organization. By using social science approach, this book is aimed to answer the questions surrounding the transformation of human communication by the rise and diffusion of wireless digital communication technologies. The answers, in this case, will rely on the stock of available knowledge on this topic in different areas of the world.

The authors of this book moving their analysis from the United States to China, from Europe to Latin America and Africa, to answer the key questions about our shifting from traditional mass communication to a mobile network society. Also, it is important to point out that the book refers to the concepts of the “network society” and “mobile network society” to emphasize the diffusion of the networking logic in all domains of social life by means of wireless communication technology.


The entire book contains nine chapters that covering topics regarding global perspectives on mobile technologies and culture perspectives on technology and communication. People who are interested in mobile technologies and society, geography and communication, mobile communication and culture, mobile communication on a global scale, youth culture and mobile communication, multimodal communication, and trends in mobile communication should definitely read and study this book thoroughly. I personally think that the first four chapter of the book are essential: The first chapter includes a statistical overview of the diffusion of wireless communication in the past decade in different areas and countries of the world, while trying to account for differences in the rate of diffusion. The second chapter, then, presents data on the patterns of social differentiation in the diffusion of the technology, and explains the causes and consequences of such differentiation: who has access to wireless communication, who has not, who has less, and why. Chapter three studies the social uses and social affects of wireless communication in different domains of human activity, grouped under the heading of “everyday life:” from family life to the transformation of work and to the emergence of social problems in the communication networks, problems such as security, surveillance, spam, scams, and digital virus epidemics. Last but not least, Chapter four plays as a deep connection between wireless communication and the rise of a youth culture (aka mobile youth culture) in most of the areas under their observation.

Communication and Mobility in Everyday Life

As discussed in chapter three, the aim of mobile working is to allow staff to access a range of systems and services while they are away from the office (without the restrictions of wire). In other words, wireless technology allows permanent availability, while it means “off time,” such as time spent traveling, can become productive time. It is interesting that while “always ready” workers may yield a greater load of working time, it does not mean that they increase productivity. In fact, they may become less productive since they put in more working time but not necessarily producing significantly more. Moreover, personal communication is penetrating the formal boundaries of work. The role of mobile communication in the private sphere extends beyond the family to the networks of friends, peers, and other social relations that together constitute the realm of sociability.

Applications in Current Digital Social Media?

The studies that covered in this book was conducted before 2006, which was literally over a decade ago, it inevitably affects its usability as a reference to analyze today’s social media world. Also, although the authors of the book claimed a broad focus on wireless digital communication technologies (which would include Wi-Fi laptop computing), the major part of the book concerns voice, text, and multimedia content sent over mobile telephony networks to personal telephone devices. Still, scholars and students of communication, technology, and society from all disciplinary backgrounds will find something valuable here, because mobile telephony has so quickly become an accepted part of social life.