Mobile phones as pastime

Is the mobile phone becoming more and more of a device for pastime? It seems many mobile phone operators and content providers think that way. The BBC has an interesting article on new developments in the mobile phone industry, following the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona.

The industry is pushing the mobile phone more and more towards a ubiquitous device that offers much tighter integration with internet-based services and content, and brings you entertainment wherever and whenever you want. The mobile phone, originally marketed as a means for business and work, can now still be used when work is done. The mobile phone is becoming a pastime in itself. From Webster’s online dictionary:

1. A subject or pursuit that occupies one’s time and thoughts (usually pleasantly): “sailing is her favorite pastime”; “his main pastime is gambling”; “he counts reading among his interests”; “they criticized the boy for his limited interests”

Interestingly, the BBC article ends with the observation that content on the mobile is marketed as useful for passing moments in transitory situations, like sitting in the train, but in reality mostly used in ‘fixed’ moments, like sitting on the sofa at home or in the office.

The theme of making every moment a useful moment with the help of your mobile is also the new corporate philosophy of Vodafone, according to an interview in Dutch marketing magazine AdFormatie with – I believe – the company’s main Benelux manager. Vodafone invests heavily in its LIVE service, that brings all kinds of content to the mobile. It offer newscasts and plans to bring many other content to the UMTS phone. “Make the most of now”. According to Vodafone’s new payoff – the company dropped “how are you?” – we should all continuously live in the present and strive to make this present always a useful moment.

It makes me wonder, is there no room left for experiencing boredom, ennui, to just simply sit somewhere for no reason and enjoy the passing of time doing nothing? No more “dolce far niente”, no more “grace matinee”? Have we commodified time, submitted it to our instrumental rationality of making time a profitable good? Have we colonised time to our will of being useful all the time? And how possibly can providing yet even more information counter the boredom we already feel with so much options to choose from?

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