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Best New Thinking Winner 2010

Bookshop – Mobile Comms Books


Communities dominate brands, Tomi Ahonen Alan More 2005
I was asked to review this for the International Advertising Journal in May where you'll find a much longer review. I'm afraid I was pretty savage. The problem with this book is that it promises so much and delivers so little. It should really be called how mobile comms is changing marketing but then a lot fewer people would have read it. Community doesn't get much of a look in. This is a book about technology most of it mobile. As a result there is a peculiar tunnel vision which comes about because the authors talk as if brands have never had communities around them and as if this is the first generation of young people for whom community is important. Which is ludicrous. What they mean is that mobiles have made a huge difference to the way people related to some brands and to each other. One of the interesting things which emerges from the book is the notion of the Alpha user who is so connected that they are the gateway for everyone else. But after tantalising us with these Alpha users and being careful to tell us that they're not early adopters, apparently we need to get consultants in from Finland along with mobile phone companies to identify them for us. So another creds presentation then and not cheap at the price. But the topic won't go away - I'd love to read anyone who actually wants to tackle how communities function and how brands can engage with them. This book fails to do this more's the pity.
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Smart Mobs, Howard Rheingold 2003 Perseus Publishing
Howard Rheingold is one of the digerati - a regular contributor to Wired magazine - he once wrote a cracking book called Virtual Communities about the internet. Rheingold has great credentials which is why he can breeze into Sony's research labls in Tokyo, into MIT and Redmond. But this is more than SFmeets sciene reportage. He has thought quite carefully about the dynamic which transformed the internet from a defence cum academic network into a ubiquitous information source run by terrorists and the unwashed public among others: co-operation. People give stuff away for free - that's how the internet works. And if mobile comms takes off - ie data as well as voice it will be because people start to produce content and interact with each other. Telephone companies who think they are going to run this show just see it as a way of charging people for usage. One of the illuminating metaphors he uses is the difference between the railways and the road system. Telecoms and mobile telecoms has been set up as a railway. Its best hope is to evolve into a road system - no one tells you when to get in your car and drive and you don't pay by the mile. That's why the internet took off and why telecoms needed to be deregulated. This isn't any more practical than Beyond Mobile (see next) but it does show the kinds of technology in R&D and it shows how early adopters (Japan and Scandinavia) are taking to mobile comms. Rheingold has an axe to grind - he worries about the corporates and how they squash free speech and take the legislators with them. What I like about the book apart from its readability is that it does a great job of identifying the social issues connected with mobile communications. How do you have a system for finding where you and your friends are without the state keeping an eye on all of you? How do we develop reflection and creativity if our culture moves to being 'always on'. I was recommended this book independently by 2 people. Make that a third. There's also a website called
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Beyond Mobile, Beyond Mobile Mats Lindgren Jorgen Jedbratt Erika Svensson 2002 Palgrave
This book is written by 3 Swedish Futurists from the Kairos institute in Sweden. Unlike your technoevangelists who tend to see one future only - these writers are a lot more cautious because no one really does have much idea how far and fast mobile comms is going to spread. So they outline 4 scenarios though you'll have to flip to the back of the book to find them. What precedes is a run through of the factors informing the different scenarios. This isn't a practical book. But it does represent a solid introdution to the various ways in which the market might develop. Its interesting to have a Scandinavian viewpoint since Scandinavia and Japan are world leaders in mobile telephony in terms of adoption of the technology and of the level of technology available to them. If your work involves high level consultancy then you will warm to the abstract charts and schematics which don't seem to me at least to be that revealing - but if you need that kind of material then look no further. This sound like a luke warm review - actually I liked the book but it tended to plod - a good intro though.
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