The smartphone as a personally used, ubiquitous system

Essay, 2015

7 Pages


The smartphone as a personally used, ubiquitous system

Smartphones, i.e. small, lightweight, mobile computers which can exchange data with the internet via cellular phone networks and integrate a telephone, a camera, a GPS receiver, a touchscreen and a keyboard (which is located in general on the touchscreen) provide resources for their users around the clock, but potentially for other people as well through user data.

Because of their potentially permanent communication with the internet, they make up a new, ubiquitous quality of incorporation of the user and possibilites of participation. E.g. that the president of the US sends or, at least, lets send in his name the, as to say, “people out there in front of their smartphone screens” a joyful commentary from his personal Twitter account after his reelection – this potentially direct link of each human being to each other human being in every place where they are (integration and participation) wasn’t imaginable ten years ago (2005). This fast development creates new, unprecedented resources for the individual and, at the same time, new, unprecedented possibilities for other people to get data about him.[1] Looking at the literature in smartphone-related research from recent years, it’s discernible that there exists much effort to find ways of obtaining a picture of the smartphone user’s personality as complete as possible by analysing usage and sensor data of his device (Chittaranjan et al. 2013, Kanjo et al. 2015, Sysoev et al. 2015). This, by the way, hints to the smartphone being a very personal device which is owned and used by only one person. For, only in this case it’s feasible to make an effort to decypher the personality of the, i.e. the single, user of a smartphone. One gets the impression that the smartphone and those who have access to the data collected from it can know the user almost better than he himself does. E.g. if the personality of the user can be analysed and categorized by means of the theory of the “big five” personality traits (Chittaranjan et al. 2013). It’s imaginable that in the near future smartphones exchange informations with other smartphones about the personality of their users and the latter can this way make a preselection of persons to contact for finding acquaintances, friends or partners. Smartphones could communicate about the interests and hobbies of their users, too, to help them find like-minded people. The smartphone could even become an advisor and therapist of its user: it could recognize its psychological state, make a 2 diagnosis on the basis of a huge, online accessible database and make proposals to him. The same could be true for life counseling its user according to his personality revealed to the device as indicated.

This strong connection of the individual with his smartphone means that this hybrid being “human-smartphone” is the predecessor of a cyborg, just the physical connection between the two is missing. In a survey of the World Economic Forum from 2015, eight hundred experts made forecasts about the so-called tipping points of a range of future technologies (Schmidt 2015). A tipping point is the point in time at which a technical development reaches the masses of the consumers.[2] According to this survey, the implantation of mobile phones – still not smartphones – as „smart tattoos“ under the skin of their users will reach this point shortly after 2020. Of course, such forecasts are possibly elicited by certain interests, i.e. those people who make them hope them to be self-fulfilling prophecies. That they cause the very development which they pretend just to forecast or, at least, contribute to it. In the same way, the original vision of ubiquitous computing – of the omnipresence of miniaturized computers and computers of various shapes and sizes and their context dependent services covering as many human purposes as possible – stems from the think tank of the US-american enterprise Xerox (Weiser 1991).


[1] Here, Weingart’s (1989:189) analysis of “making hitherto existing expectations and behaviours contingent and opening up new horizons of expectations” (translation by S.S.) as mechanism of the societal establishment of new technologies is appropriate if somewhere.

[2] In mathematical terms, it’s defined as the transition of linear growth to an exponential one. Thus, it isn’t just defined by a usage rate, i.e. as a threshold at which a particular usage rate has been reached. But it’s defined by the change of growth rate, of the pace of its adoption. In the diffusion model of Rogers, in which the adoption rate is displayed on the horizontal axis, this would roughly bet he transition from the phase of early adopters to that of the early majority.

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The smartphone as a personally used, ubiquitous system
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Steffen Schumacher (Author), 2015, The smartphone as a personally used, ubiquitous system, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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