A year ago when the iPhone was first released, the lines were populated with mostly male geeks in the young to middle age range. This year, there were some of those, but a far greater diversity. Not only were there 20-somethings but 70-somethings as well. This time the women outnumbered the men.
In the language of social diffusion, the technology’s adoption has gone from innovators and early adopters to later adopters. The technology is no longer the purview of opinion leaders but now has become mainstream culture.
The 3G iPhone has many new features that catch a sociological eye.
One new feature is a Google GPS locator that can tell where you are on a map or satellite picture every moment of every day. Anticipating privacy issues, Google frequently asked the iPhone user if he or she wishes to allow use of your current location. If you answer “yes,” then you are giving yourself (and your data) to the world of mobile advertising. And you can be sure that someday you’ll start to get advertisements from nearby businesses. This is the kind of Internet privacy issue that Congress held hearings on last week.
Another new feature of sociological interest is the free application MySpace Mobile for iPhone. This type of little gadget will put social networking on a new level. It makes it easy, no matter where you are, to send and receive messages, browse your network of friends, upload and share photos, post comments on friends’ profiles and photos, search to find new friends, etc. etc.
None of these technologies are new, but the iPhone package is designed to hook the masses with an easy to use, fun, and powerful array of tools. The diffusion of these types of social technologies spikes forward at such mindboggling speed and complexity, there is little hope that sociologists can keep up with the research needed to understand this stream of changes in society. If thousands of sociologists were studying it, that would be a different story. But dozens would be the actual number.
Actually the sociological community most devoted to this research numbers about 300. Check out the Communications and Information Technologies Section of the American Sociological Association.