Your Smart Phones Are Hot Pockets to Us: Context Collapse in a Mobilized Age
Social and Behavioral Sciences
A key guarantor of social trust and a necessary feature of democratic societies is a stable sense of social distance. Social distance is the cultural imaginary within which an individual’s coordinates of social status and contingent social location allow or inhibit contact with similarly and dissimilarly located others. The rearrangement of customary social distances by new communication technologies is a source of considerable social anxiety. In mobile communication, this context collapse is instigated by a distinctive combination of affordances: deep connectivity, the accelerated speed and volume of communicative exchange, enhanced social legibility and asymmetric communicative transparency. Robust and effective levels of social trust depend on a political will to build strong democratic accountability and civil rights guarantees into emerging mobile architectures. Identifying specific recalibrations of familiar social distances by regimes of mobile communication and assessing the effects of these recalibrations in democratic terms is a central task of mobile research.