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A portable telephone using a cellular radio system, so that users are no longer confined to a fixed spatial location as they were with fixed telephones based on landlines. In the UK, before 1985 no one had a true mobile; by 2000 over half the population had one, and now almost everyone has one. Mobiles have transcended the conventional functions of voice telephony, incorporating functions such as SMS text messaging, photography and video-recording, music and video playback, PDA, and internet-access (including email and web browsing). The mobile has become a key tool for the maintenance of social networks and the shaping of social identity, especially among adolescents. Ling declares that ‘it leads to the sharing of experiences and emotions more immediately than almost any other mediated form of contact, save face-to-face interaction’. Mobiles have also contributed to the blurring of the public and private spheres, as in relation to how co-present others are handled. See also gendered technologies; strong ties; weak ties.

Subjects: Media studies

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