User Design and the Democratization of the Mobile Phone

Leopoldina Fortunati

Abstract


When the mobile phone was first introduced into Italy, it was considered an arrogant and vulgar technology used only by those at the top of society. Today, however, the mobile phone is used across all Italian social classes and is considered highly fashionable. This transformation in perceptions of this technology — and, therefore, its uses — can usefully be understood as, simultaneously, the democratization of the mobile telephone. One of the most important factors that made this technology more acceptable in Italian society was its redesign as a material object, undertaken in response to the actual needs and practices of users. Once individual users found their own identities and desires reflected in the mobile telephone, they were far more likely to incorporate this technology into their personal ecologies. Even though mobile telephones are very much the product of large industrial organizations, this case also demonstrates the contribution of users to design of the technological environment that then in turn governs their own behaviors.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5210/fm.v0i0.1615



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