Por Alex Law
Mobile telephone technologies seem to be everywhere having profound
effects on the nature of communication. They are being celebrated
for the creativity of new mobile languages that have and are being
generated and for emancipating communication from fixed points in
space. But behind this lies a central paradox – mobile phones
are ubiquitous and bodily intimate technologies but, at the same
time, the public seems particularly fearful of any spatial proximity
to mobile phone masts. Such fears are generally understood in terms
of 'risk perception', an irrational consequence of media hype, faulty
cognitive processing, or communication failure. This merely psychologises
what is a deeply spatial paradox. The routine 'nomadic intimacy'
of mobile phone usage establishes place as a mere backdrop to being
always 'on-call', too absorbed in the 'busy-ness' of everyday life
to notice what is close at hand. In contrast, 'place intimacy' becomes
evident when public protest over the unwanted intrusion of phone
masts helps refashion familiar places as meaningful, safe and worth
protecting. Reaction to the unwanted intrusion of phone masts helps
to refashion familiar places as meaningful, safe and worth protecting.
In contrast, the routine nomadic intimacy of mobile phones establishes
place as an indifferent backdrop to being always 'on-call', too
absorbed in the 'busy-ness' of life to notice what is close at hand.
In this respect, and contrary to the celebration of mobile telephony
as a liberatory technology it may also be deepening the disenchantment
with modern life.
The Social Geometry of Mobile
Mobile Telephony: The Dr Jekyll
and Mr Hyde of ICTs?
Mobile telephone technologies are having profound effects on the
nature of communication. Yet, critical examination of the widespread
impact of mobile communication technology is lagging well behind
the social, cultural and spatial innovations already being brought
into existence. This new sense of communication in motion has become
a forcing house for cultural experimentation. Take text messaging,
or short message services to use its technical term. This has been
variously discussed a revolutionary new means of expression among
teenagers or as a scandalous assault on the ‘cul8ral’
standards of national languages. Standard English, which aspires
to become the lingua franca for the age of globalisation,
has broken into various localised hybrid languages, what Plant (2002)
calls the ‘new textperantos for the mobile age’. Such
communication creativity was unforeseen by the mobile telephony
Different cultures have found different
terms for the handset in mobile telephony, reflecting the fact that
this small portable object allows communication with an unseen communicant
while moving through open space. Though it called a ‘cell
phone’ in the United States, in Britain it is known as ‘the
mobile’, in France ‘le portable’, in Finland ‘kanny’,
‘in Germany ‘handy’, in Thailand ‘moto’,
in Spain ‘el movil’, in Japan ‘ke-tai’ (Plant,
2002: 23). Mobile telephony has emerged as an important shaper and
emblem of everyday life, in some ways proving more radical than
the coming of the Web just a few years earlier. Although Manuel
Castells (2001, p. 234), the leading architect of the idea of the
Internet as the medium of a new ‘Network Society’, makes
only a single mention of mobile telephony in his recent 300 page-long
study, The Internet Galaxy mobile telephony is set to merge
with the computing to create new relationships between Castells’
‘spaces of flows’ and ‘nodes’ in creating
mixed-up ‘hybrid spaces’. In some cultures, such as
the United States, cell phone use is less extensive than in places
like China, Japan and Thailand, perhaps because it represents a
violation of personal space and boundaries where elsewhere it extends
existing layers of social interaction (Plant and Land, 2003).
Wireless transmission technologies
like portable or ‘mobile’ telephony therefore seem to
represent a technological reordering of the geography of communication,
consigning the spatial fixity of the television and telephone age
to an archaic memory. For some, mobile telephony represents an ‘emancipation
from physical constraint’ (Geser, 2002). As Leopoldina Fortunati
(2002a) puts it, ‘If the Internet is really creating the conditions
for humanity's taking on a planetary consciousness, the mobile creates
the conditions for the acquisition of a really widespread cosmic
consciousness’. For Townsend (2000) the cellular telephone
‘will undoubtedly lead to fundamental transformations in individuals’
perceptions of self and the world, and consequently the way they
collectively construct that world’. Sadie Plant (2002) further
argues that mobile telephony ‘has extensive implications’
for the nature of communication, identities, social structures and
economic activities. Plant (2002) continues, ‘the mobile introduces
new senses of speed and connectivity to social life, establishing
new kinds of relationships between individuals and with the urban
crowd. In this respect, the mobile can facilitate the emergence
of a new private world, a virtual community which can be pulled
together in a matter of moments’. In existential terms, Plant
argues that ‘the mobile is probably the first piece of digital
technology which directly and more or less constantly changes people’s
intimate experience of their bodies, their senses of their capacities,
the possibilities of the everyday, on the street, the material self’
(Plant and Land, 2003, p. 63).
Such claims echo those made for
the Web a decade ago, deploying the exaggerated code words of technological
glamour - new, speed, ‘connectivity’, community. As
part of the more general phenomena of de-territorialization, mobile
telephony makes possible a new social geometry of communication.
It inverts what Georg Simmel (1997) called ‘spatial proximity’
and ‘social distance’ by combining unprecedented mixtures
of spatial distance with social proximity. Yet
technologically-mediated remoteness from what is physically close
and intimacy with what is spatially distant will not necessarily
result in emancipated mobile spaces (Stones, 2001). Mobile telephony
may also extend the social controls of parents or bosses across
distances or foster a conservative or passive relationship to space
as users avoid what is close at hand but unfamiliar and reach instead
for the familiar but spatially remote (Katz, 1999; Haddon, 2000).
Neither are mobile phones being uncritically absorbed into national
and local cultures as sales figures alone might suggest (Fortunati,
2002b, p. 54; Nafus and Tracey, 2002). Different age cohorts express
divergent attitudes towards mobile telephony. While teenagers display
the most positive attitudes, many under-30 year-olds express outright
hostility and older age groups feign indifference (Nafus and Tracey,
A focus on the technics of mobility,
that is on the operation of a portable device while on the move,
runs the risk of fetishising the object of the mobile handset as
a semi-autonomous cultural symbol or functional gadget. As a fetishised
object the mobile phone transforms the meaning of place into a blurred
backdrop, an empty void through which communicants indifferently
pass. As an indeterminate marker of the passage through space, place
becomes a resource for mobile callers to register their increasing
or decreasing distance from each other in the interminable enquiry,
‘Where are you now?’ (Laurier, 2000). Place is less
a space loaded with specific meanings but one reduced to a quantitative
means for measuring the stages of a journey. Fortunati (2002a, p.
11) argues that such ‘nomadic intimacy’ diminishes what
might be called the ‘place intimacy’ of social spaces.
The public space is no longer
a full itinerary, lived in all its aspects, stimuli and prospects,
but is kept in the background of an itinerant "cellular"
intimacy. Thus, the possibility of a nomadic intimacy is achieved,
but at the same time there is the refusal to discover and directly
experience everything that the social space can offer.
Place intimacy need not depend on
a fixed, nostalgic ‘sense of place’, where ‘authentic’
communities somehow resist the ‘inauthentic’ transience
of mobile geographies, to register the role of mobile technologies
in creating an ‘absent presence’ – the body is
here but the mind is engaged somewhere else (Agre, 2001). Spatial
consciousness is reconfigured by mobile communications as physical
co-presence becomes ‘absorbed by a technologically mediated
world of elsewhere’ (Gergen, 2001, p. 227). A sense of spatial
context might yet be restored by sophisticated context recognition
devices that technically mediate the ‘absent presence’
of a stable location for remote human interaction using ultra-mobile
computing like mobile phones (Schmidt, et al, 1999). Thus technology
is called upon to rectify the condition of displacement that technology
itself gave rise to. It thus gives rise to a Jekyll and Hyde attitude
to mobile telephony.
One side of this dual character
is that mobile telephony remains dependent on the everyday meaning
of place intimacy. This can be found in the contentious siting of
radio transmitters and receivers for mobile telephony. Behind the
youthful facade of the sleek handheld cell phone, creating a new
freedom from space, stands a familiar, old-style fixed industrial
infrastructure of base stations upon which the functioning of mobile
technology depends. At street level the ‘space of flows’
of mobile communications depends on the ‘nodes’ of an
infrastructure of fixed transmitters and receivers housed in base
stations. Base stations process radio waves from mobile phones and
provide geographical coverage over areas known as ‘cells’.
Nation-wide mast networks scar the new mobilescape, which is perhaps
why strenuous efforts are made to keep them out of sight.
As fixed nodes in the new nomadic
space of flows base stations (or phone masts) have become the source
of two key objections: aesthetic-cultural and health risks. Each
has become a matter of contention in many localities for quite distinct
reasons. Aesthetic-cultural objections to base stations rest on
their incongruent relationship to the surrounding landscape. Health
risk objections to base stations rest on public fears of radiation
and a sceptical attitude towards scientific expertise. This paper
examines some of the sources of these two seemingly unrelated objections.
It sets out the paradox of base station fears that, when coupled
with widespread mobile phone usage, is a function not of some irrational
public schizophrenia over technology that some analysts claim but
of spatial proximity to technology considered ‘alien’
to the place intimacy of urban and rural environments. It then provide
an alternative mobile geography of base stations, one that focuses
on political mobilisation over the contentious siting of phone masts.
From a remote social distance scientists, policy agents and operating
companies attempt to factor-in geography as a largely neutral variable
in base station siting (Cutter, 1999). In contrast the place intimacy
of activists, residents and parents endow local space with rational
concerns over health and arouse strong feelings over the external
imposition of eerie-looking built structures.
Postmodern Towers Of Babel?
In terms of geographical spread the spatial growth of base station
coverage has been a process of dispersal outwards from high-density
urban populations to more remote areas along major transport routes
such as motorways. Like some latter-day tower of Babel base stations
electronically process and relay novel language forms across space.
And just like the biblical tower of Babel base stations have become
a controversial site of mutually incomprehensible voices. Their
proliferation represents a highly visible and contentious feature
of both urban and rural landscapes. Phone mast visibility has led
to objections from those living within their vicinity on the grounds
of ‘visual obstruction and intrusion’. Base stations
take on a varied appearance but tend to share in common several
basic features such as a storage cabinet housing electronic equipment
for transmission and reception of radio frequency signals, a mast
or a tower, typically 15 metres high, with aerial antennae or dishes
In such forms base stations do not
easily blend-in with idealised rural landscapes. In less densely
populated areas concerns over base stations tend to revolve around
the aesthetic or amenity value of scenic landscape or wilderness.
Their appearance as industrial objects works against the landscaping
of ‘the rural’ as scenic countryside and disrupts the
tourist idyll and authenticity of the heritage industry’s
staple of mannered country life. One Scottish folklorist, for example,
protests that climbers ascending the summit of Mount Blair in east
Perthshire, an area rich in Scottish folklore as well as sumptuous
scenery, must confront an ‘ungainly structure’: ‘The
word “mast” is a beautiful one with it nautical connotations.
Another word altogether should be found for the new chunks of ironmongery
that are despoiling the landscape’ (Fleming, 2001, p. 554).
Even from the limited vantage point of a car travelling along a
motorway base stations stand out. Efforts have been made to camouflage
base stations using ‘stealth designs’ so that they effortlessly
dissolve into the background from the view of passing motorists,
who only see rather strange looking trees from their cars rather
than a piece of telecommunications apparatus. Such deception expresses
a wish to erase the disenchanted signs of modernity from the cultural
construction of rural landscapes, forgetting that an older mobile
geography of car-filled motorways already cuts a swathe through
them (Smith, 1998).
Perhaps the most intense controversy
concerning the siting of base stations has been generated in urban
settings by their spatial proximity to ‘sensitive’ built
structures like hospitals, schools and residential estates. Despite
the efforts of industry groups like the international body, the
Mobile Manufacturers Forum (www.mmfai.org), base stations arouse
strong fears of health risks from the emission of radio-frequency
radiation. As industrial objects base stations in urban areas may
be less susceptible to aesthetic disapproval. They tend in any case
to be banished to the top of tall buildings, housed inside built
structures such as disused church steeples or fixed to existing
street furniture like CCTV cameras or street lighting.
Base stations tend to be clustered
in the city centre and fan out from there in concentric circles,
a spatial patterning that shadows the concentration of radio connections
needed to ensure effective coverage, connecting-up large numbers
of callers in more densely populated areas. In rural settings base
stations cover up to a 10km radius while in cities the radius of
coverage may be less than a few hundred meters. They are also more
likely to be located nearer to buildings of public sensitivity than
in semi-urban or rural settings. It is impossible to avoid siting
base stations in close proximity to residential populations or public
amenities. With constantly increasing base station sites, estimated
at 100,000 new masts compared to the present 40,000, to support
the increased sophistication of the ‘third’ generation
(3G) of mobile phones, public concerns over base stations are not
likely to subside but may even increase in the near future (Fox,
2001; Curwen, 2000). Despite phone operators paying huge sums for
3G licenses, £22 billion in the UK and £6.5 billion
in France, rising public concern and resistance to base station
sitings is jeopardising the introduction of the 3G network and with
it operator profitability (Spurgeon, 2001, p. 275).
Risk And Rationality
If, as is generally the case, public fear of base stations is understood
in terms of perceptions of risk then it rests on an apparent paradox.
According to the scientific evidence, radiation exposure from base
stations could be considerably lower than emissions from using a
mobile phone (Stewart, 2000; Blettner and Berg, 2000; Schuz and
Mann, 2000; GAO, 2001; Strock, 1998). Base stations generally emit
radio waves in an even pattern well below levels set by international
guidelines and any concentrated pocket of radiation emission is
likely to be at a safe distance from ground level. Mobile phones,
in contrast, may have higher emissions of radiated energy, which
can have a thermal effect, heating body tissue, or biological effects
such as tumours or cell breakdown (Edwards, 2001). Recent scientific
research has also found some worrying non-heating effects of microwave
radiation, causing nematode worms to become more fertile and grow
longer (Graham-Rowe, 2002). Yet despite the apparent lower health
risks the public seems to be more anxious about base stations than
about using mobile phones. In the words of one US writer, ‘Simply
put, many people love wireless convenience … but no one loves
the towers or antenna arrays that accompany the technology’
(Blake Levitt, 1998).
In the UK the most authoritative
overview of scientific findings, the UK Independent Expert Group
on Mobile Phones (Stewart, 2000, p. 26) speculated on the central
‘paradox’ of the public’s base station fears:
Given the much lower exposures
to radiation from base stations than from handsets, the greater
public concern … about the former is paradoxical. It presumably
arises because individuals can choose whether or not to use a
mobile phone, whereas they have little control over their exposure
from base stations.
Thus, contrary to the available
scientific evidence, the public seem to underestimate health risks
from mobile handsets while frequently overestimating the risks from
base stations (HC330, 2000). This is variously attributed to the
failure to communicate scientific knowledge effectively to the public
(Covello, 1998) or the public's cognitive failure to acquire adequate
or accurate knowledge (Hester, 1998). The 'established mental model'
of deficient public knowledge and risk perceptions often assumes
the public’s 'numerous misconceptions and misperceptions,
as well as deductions from inaccurate media information' (Szmigielski
and Sobiczewska, 2000, p. 264). Others, however, remain sceptical
about communication failure and mental deficit models and point
to the role of wider political and cultural values shaping conflicting
assessments of risk (Taylor, 1999). It is not just the public that
appear to have ‘defective mental models’, that public
perceptions fail to correspond to what science tells them about
reality, since the scientific community is itself divided on the
potential hazards. Many scientists urge a precautionary approach
to base station location until more research has been conducted.
Some bioelectromagnetic research suggests that the most profound
bioreactions occur at the lowest exposure levels (Blake Levitt,
1998). Campaign groups claim to have identified cancer clusters
among people living close to masts and some research exists that
challenges the dominant ‘no hazard’ hypothesis (Cherry,
2000). In Germany medical practitioners have initiated the Frieburger
Appeal (2002) over their concern about unknown health hazards and
the identification of a correlation between sick patients and base
Current research therefore prioritises
professional and expert definitions and calculations of risk over
public perceptions (see Kammen and Hassenzahl, 1999; Bennett and
Calman, 1999). Studies for the International Commission on Non-Ionizing
Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) and the World Health Organization
(Matthes, et al, 1998; Repacholi and Muc, 1999) propose to resolve
the incongruity between science and public perceptions by a more
efficiently designed process for communicating scientific knowledge
appropriate to the existing 'mental models' of lay people. In its
recommendations, the Stewart Report established three priorities
designed to reassure the public about base station development:
amenity, to minimise the (visible) environmental impact;
health, where potential health impacts should form a material
planning consideration; and a precautionary approach, where
planning authorities need to compile a hierarchy of site locations.
Only the latter recommendation begins to address the crucial geographical
issue of place intimacy, albeit from the social distances of planning
For the mobile telephony paradox
there is, as yet, little empirical data concerning precisely how
perceptions are shaped by cultural and geographical factors. The
Stewart Report links this paradox to the degree of control and autonomy
that individuals feel able to establish over mobile telephony in
comparison to the siting of base stations. Many others list similar
claims about cognitive failure and reduced personal autonomy. Psychological
perceptions of risk generate opposition to technological developments
like mobile telephony. In common with many forms of risk analysis
the World Health Organisation compiled a list of binary characteristics
for low to high perceptions of risk (WHO, 1998; see also Chapman
and Wutzke, 1997). The mobile phone/mast paradox can therefore be
reduced to a kind of rationality failure on the part of local campaigners
and communication failure on the part of operators and planners,
with only the latter in a position of knowledgeable authority to
correct the faulty representations of the former.
A further way that mobile telephony’s
Jekyll and Hyde condition might be understood is in terms of material
culture, in the symbolic meaning of the mobile phone and mast as
physical objects. The mobile handset appears to possess diametrically
opposed design characteristics to base stations: the former is elegant,
miniaturised, a fashion accessory, portable, bodily intimate, ‘soft
and compact’ (Chuang, et al, 2001), and emblematic of metropolitan
sophistication (or vulgarity) while base stations are perceived
as large, ungainly industrial protrusions, alien impositions fixed
to the landscape, emitting unseen and unknown dangers. In such ways,
the very infrastructure that makes mobile telephony possible as
a functioning, desirable technical system appears to be rejected
by the culture that generated it in the first place.
While a focus on material culture
moves away from the psychologisation of protest and communication
failure these objects need to be more firmly embedded within the
habitus of place intimacy if they are not to become reified. Base
station fears are not solely about the ugliness of towers (Blake
Levitt, 1998), though their physical characteristics may indeed
be a factor. Few, including otherwise authoritative cross-national
studies like Katz and Aakhus (2002), make the paradoxical connection
that base station fears and ubiquitous mobile phone usage may in
fact be closely connected once the issue of people's unquestioned
relationship to familiar spaces, place intimacy, is considered.
To more adequately account for mobile telephony, an understanding
is necessary of the new technologically-mediated spaces of communication,
its inverted social geometry of spatial proximity and social distance.
Protest and Phone Masts
Opposition to mobile phone towers has become a routine feature of
many countries. In August 1995, a protest opposing a base station
adjacent to a kindergarten in the middle-class beachside Sydney
suburb of Habord was taken-up sympathetically by the news media
and the telecommunications operator Telstra forced to dismantle
the structure (Chapman and Wutzke, 1997). In January 2002, parents
in the north-central Spanish city Valladolid won a court judgement
to close down a cluster of thirty masts on the roof of a building
neighbouring a primary school after four cases of cancer were detected
among the 450 pupils (Reuters, 2002). Throughout the United States,
where Section 704 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act gives communities
limited rights over the general placement, construction, and modification
of towers stopping short of an outright ban, respectable as well
as poor neighbourhoods have been engaging in civil disobedience
to prevent the siting of phone towers. In Wellfleet, Massachusetts,
a small New England town on Cape Cod where a church wanted to site
several antennas in its steeple, in the very heart of a historic
district of centuries-old closely built houses, local resident Richard
Chevalier asked, ‘What are they going to do, send out the
national guard and make us site towers?’ (Blake Levitt, 1998).
Such is the concern extending even into places like Vermont that
industry researchers in the US went on strike for a year demanding
that the industry indemnify them for the results of their research.
In London local residents used Human Rights legislation to prevent
Orange from erecting a new mast on the roof of the Royal Free Hospital.
Such examples could be multiplied over and over.
Even from this cursory glance it
is apparent that health fears are intimately tied-up with geography.
Thus there are important national differences in the ‘mobilezation’
of base station protest. Differing national juridicial, policy and
media contexts contribute to the social construction of risk (Burgess,
2002). In the UK a high level of ‘risk consciousness’
over issues like the media coverage of BSE coupled with state responsiveness
to anti-mast campaigners may have actually increased rather than
quelled public anxiety about health risks (Burgess, 2002, p. 178).
Following the successful Sydney protests in the mid-1990s health
risks remains high in Australian public consciousness and became
institutionally embedded in state consultation exercises. A precautionary
approach has gone furthest in Italy where the most restrictive precautionary
laws in the world have been passed against ‘electrosmog’.
In contrast, Finland has the highest concentration of mobile phone
users and is home to mobile phone corporation Nokia but health concerns
are not a public issue. In some other places they have also slipped
back down the public agenda. Anti-mast protests flared in Ireland
in the mid-1990s through to 1998, when 120 riot police sealed-off
a village, Kerrykeel in Donegal, for the erection of a mast, but
since then the issue has become depoliticised against a background
of rapid national economic development. Protests are not always
health-related. In Cyprus anti-mast protesters rioted against the
lack of local consultation and high-handness of the British military
presence on the island in unilaterally erecting masts (The Economist,
2001). Despite widely publicised lawsuits over brain cancer in the
US health concerns have not had the same resonance there as aesthetic
issues or local control issues.
Yet national differences in attitudes
to base stations cannot simply be put down to how heath risk is
‘socially constructed’ by media hype and further legitimated
by the state’s own policy of precaution. Burgess (2002, p.
184), for instance, gives the media a decisive role in constituting
public anxieties and recommends that politicians and ‘influential
individuals’ should avoid a ‘non-scientific' precautionary
approach since accommodation with ‘minority fears’ over
an impossibly hypothetical risk merely encourages public fears and
active campaigners. Indeed, campaigners in the UK and elsewhere
have successfully blocked base station developments not on the grounds
of the available scientific research but on the potential and as
yet unproven link to adverse health effects (Spurgeon, 2001). But
Burgess’s argument that precautionary state responses to media
scare stories play an important, perhaps central, role in the social
construction of base station fears is self-contradictory and neglects
the specifically spatial dynamic of place intimacy.
In fact, in following international
guidelines in the UK both government and industry are going to great
lengths to exclude health risk fears as a legitimate basis for objecting
to proposed mast locations. Rather than inflaming (or constructing)
public fears many local governments and health authorities in Scotland
were actually taken by complete surprise in 1997 after ‘base
stations have spread largely unnoticed across Scotland’ (Scotland
on Sunday, 2 March 1997). Neither are anti-mast protesters gullible
‘media dopes’ that panic irrationally at the repeated
mention of some potential hazard. Consider the near saturation public
use of mobile phones, despite media stories and official health
warnings. Burgess (2002, p. 186) puts this lack of a public panic
over handset radiation down to a ‘pragmatic attitude’
and is ultimately forced to argue against the force of his earlier
analysis that ‘Evidently, precautionary state policies do
not exercise a decisive influence in the social construction
of risk’ (our emphasis).
What is missing from such accounts
is that both health and aesthetic objections to mast sitings address
themselves to a specific violation of place intimacy. The use of
mobile phones in public places also violates the customary sense
of place intimacy but typically occurs in a ‘neutral’
shared space such as on board a bus, in the supermarket or the pub.
The often loudly declaimed ‘absent presence’ of the
caller may be irritating to those physically nearby but is often
tolerated since those within earshot may be required to next take
a call in front of the same public. Over time the unwanted intrusion
of the public mobile phone user will be negotiated culturally and
a new set of norms for appropriate conduct will emerge. Some trains,
for instance, have introduced Quiet Coaches where any use of mobile
phones is forbidden. Inanimate base stations, however, cannot be
culturally negotiated in the same way. With the passage of time
they may begin to disappear from public perception and enter into
the background street furniture of everyday life, just as electricity
pylons, television aerials and satellite dishes were once objects
of public disquiet but are now hardly noticed. With increasing technological
complexity and fierce market competition base station banality may
yet be some years away.
The siting of phone masts may continue to generate controversy over
the next few years. The third generation of handheld mobile phones
will require an overhaul of the communication mast infrastructure.
Health fears have not been assuaged and public uncertainty persists
over the scientific evidence. Moreover, unless planners find a way
to come to terms with place intimacy a hierarchy of planning values
based on a faulty psychological or communication model of risk perception
will continue to be imposed onto a sceptical, anxious and increasingly
vocal public. Public fears over fixed masts are rarely related directly
to the nomadic intimacy made possible by more hazardous phone usage.
This paper aimed to show something of the repressed side of emerging
mobile communications by making the paradoxical responses to mobile
telephony explicit. Reaction to the unwanted intrusion of phone
masts helps to refashion familiar places as meaningful, safe and
worth protecting. In contrast, the routine nomadic intimacy of mobile
phones establishes place as an indifferent backdrop to being always
'on-call', too absorbed in the 'busy-ness' of life to notice what
is close at hand. In this respect, and contrary to the celebration
of mobile telephony as a liberatory technology it may also be deepening
the disenchantment with modern life.
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