Social Construction Of Technology: Cell Phone Development

1555 words - 6 pages

The Social Construction of Technology (or SCOT) is a new research tradition rooted in the sociology of technology. SCOT provides a multi-directional model based on the property of interpretative flexibility, and emphasizes on social influences on the technology design and development. This paper will apply SCOT principles to explore the development of cell phone, define the development of cell phone into three different stages historically, and analyze the interpretative flexibility of the cell phone accordingly in the three different stages. Based on SCOT theory, this paper will discuss how the original huge cell phones are shaped and developed by social influences to the smartphones in today’s life.

In 1983, Motorola released its first cell phone, known as the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X, which offered 30 minutes of talk-time, six hour standby, and could store 30 phone numbers. By that time, cell phones were extremely expensive -- the DynaTAC 8000X costs 3995 dollars, and the cellular network was limited. To analyze the development and interpretative flexibility of the cell phone at its early stage, we must first introduce social groups that were related to the artefact. The users of the artefact were the most important social group. At the time, users were mainly constructed by businessmen, managers, politicians, doctors,big companies, military etc. who had high income and had to remain in contact with others occasionally. For them, the cell phones were the extension of corded phones that helps keeping the communication on without the limit of ranges. Thus, the problems that this social group had with cell phones are rather clear. The cell phones were too big and heavy, the talking time was too short for frequent users, and the numbers that the cell phone can store was far less than enough for such social group’s needs. Another important social group related to the artefact was constructed by the manufacturers, designers, and sellers of the cell phones. They defined the newly raised industry. What they made, how they design, and to whom they sell their products made a fundamental influence on this young industry. The third social group was those who didn’t own a cell phone but were interested in having one. Despite the huge shape and the heavyweight, cell phones became the new crazy of that time when it was released to public. However the problem was, this group of people could not afford it, and even if they could afford the cell phones, it wouldn’t be necessary to buy if they hardly got the chance to use.

According to SCOT, the cell phone can be interpreted in many ways according to different social groups. To solve the problems that each social groups had, the makers have made the cell phones cheaper, lighter, and smaller than before. According to the first profile of cell phone users generated in 1987, the majority group of users, who were at the age between 35 and 50, had income in excess of 35000 dollars in average, but the average...

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