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 University of Helsinki

Sociology of cellular telephone: The nordic model (300 000 Yuppies? Mobile phones in Finland)

(published in Telecommunications policy Vol 17, Nr 6, August 1993 and 
Reseaux Communication/Technologie/Societe 65  Mai/juin 1994 (in French: Sociologie du telephone cellulaire) 


     The telephone is historically the invention which made immediate interpersonal communication and interaction independent of the physical distance between the interlocutors (Ronell 1989). This change in the nature of personal interaction is one of the most important developments since the introduction of letter writing, which itself has come closer to telephonic communication with the advent of electronic mail, telefax, answering machines, etc. To this immediacy of communication, regardless of distance, can, since the introduction of mobile (or cellular) telephones be added independence from location: a telephonic discussion can be initiated and accepted practically anywhere, in the car, on the streets, in the nature. This irreversible change in the mobility of both the ear and the mouth is certainly as dramatic as was the telephone originally. This new freedom of movement (and even nomadism, a deliberate lack of permanent living place, discussed by de Gournay 1991), is a very important qualitative step. The caller does not know where his interlocutor is; in (whose?) bed, in the office, car, restaurant, park, it is enough to know his number. The user of a mobile telephone, on the other hand, can use his phone anywhere whenever he or she feels a need to call (i.e. combine several activities and use his time more efficiently). An important feature is that it is possible to talk on the telephone while actually moving, even over long distances and very fast, thus combining two basic activities. It is important to note that mobility is an important development not restricted to telephones. The walkman and the portable PC are two other examples of audiovisual activities while on the move. I shall not enter the already much too diffuse discussion about postmodern society, but it seems to me that this kind of mobility, being free from fixed locations and being simultaneously locally reachable is one of the prime criteria in distinguishing postmodern from modern. Oddly, the recent technological developments of the small, portable, personal, amd interactive devices, although extremely different from the "modern" technology of the 60's (enormous computers, space rockets, missiles, etc.) has not interested the theorists of postmodernism (eg. Featherstone (1991), Jameson (1991), Harvey (1989), Lash-Friedman (1992)), ie. mobility or liberation from a fixed location has not been seen as postmodern. On the other hand, while mobility as such - the use of cars, airplanes, etc. - was considered as a part of modernity, the mobility of mobile phones apparently differs from this "traditional" mobility. In fact, it is not mobility as such but the combination of mobility and permanence, the caller is mobile, while the person who is being called is "always there". This ambivalent situation I would call typically postmodern. 
   There is a large number of people for whom the ideal of permanent availability (at least for others) is very appealing.  If it is economically or emotionally important to be always within reach of others, a portable phone is obviously useful. Thus for many users, from salesmen to mothers who want to be always there for their clients or children, mobile phones satisfy a genuine need. They make possible a much more efficient time use, being able to fill the otherwise "wasted" waiting times by work or social contacts. Unexpected timetable changes may also be adjusted to much easier.  It also frees people to combine activities: to take orders while doing work. It helps people find directions, inform about delays, avoid unnecessary trips etc. 
  An important additional plus is increased security: there is no need to find a telephone to make an emergency call. Accidents can be reported immediately, cutting communication lines becomes impossible or difficult, communications are preserved even in such disasters as earthquakes which usually make incapacitate ordinary telephone connections (in the recent California earthquake mobile telephones showed their usefulness). In the United States, new portable phones come often equipped with automatic emergency connections: pressing a single button is enough (this is an important sales argument). 
   There are also negative effects: increased pressure and control through increased availability and reachability. Those who feel that telephones together with fax machines already make their life unbearable feel horrified by the new possibilities of mobile telephones. For many people, being out of reach of the telephone means the ultimate freedom from unwanted demands and possibility of uninterrupted activities which require concentration (for example research). Much of the opposition to mobile telephones is of an elitist, privileged and intellectual kind: let the people have their phones, but I shall not be bothered. 
    Also, the use of mobile telephones suffers from the "bad image" given to the telephone by its fresh users: beeping telephones disturb meetings, restaurants, movie watching, all kinds of situations where people have not previously been accessible. Also mobile telephones are in many countries associated to yuppies, showing off, half-criminal uses, which has increased the resistance for ordinary people to adopt them. 
   That the advantages are greater than the disadvantages is shown by the constantly growing (exploding!) market, one on which the European recession of the early 90's has only had a slight effect (the formerly 50% yearly growth rates have decreased to 30% in 1991, but the slowdown seems to have been only temporary). There is clearly a need (or desire) for mobile telephones, which has surpassed all expectations.  On the other hand, the negative effects will continue as new users go through their first fascination with mobile phones. 
   Here the Nordic countries have since the beginnings of mobile telephones (in early 80's), shown the way. In Finland, the number of mobile telephone users has grown very rapidly during recent years, and further growth is expected (see Figure 1). In fact, in 1993, despite a deep recession, Finland became the leading Nordic and European country in mobile telephones, bypassing Sweden, with a level of penetration of around  10 % 
  The reasons why this universal desire has been fulfilled in the Nordic countries at such an exceptional level are not clear. It is actually astonishing for countries like Finland and Sweden, not usually so well known for their desire to communicate. Finns especially have a reputation - using the expression of Bertolt Brecht - of being a people who are silent in two languages.  Actually, this is a very interesting socio-economico-technical question for which there are several competing explanations. 

  The Nordic advantange

   Most of the arguments explaining the phenomenal growth of mobile telephones, while plausible, are not sufficient to explain the specificity of the Nordic countries. The economic, technical, geographical and political hypotheses (see Kelly, 1992) are neither exclusive nor inclusive. The Nordic countries are not the richest, technologically most advanced, geographically most advantageous, nor do their socio-political structures especially favour the development of high-tech or telephones. 
  I would like to suggest that a combination of political and cultural conditions mean that the main reasons for the exceptional spread of mobile telephones in Finland (and in the Nordic countries in general) are to be found in an extraordinary combination of different factors: 

   An efficient state infrastructure in a technologically advanced country in which the traditional telephone network is already highly developed. Strong state-owned monopolies/oligopolies have taken care of energy production and importation, railroads, mail services, long distance telephone calls, alcohol sales. We have (had) little tradition of free market competition; attempts to bring Finland closer to EC requirements have only recently opened some markets (most notably and with catastrophic consequences, the banking sector which had been highly regulated). The development of a working system requiring an expensive infrastructure to cover all the territory and not only the most profitable areas, is precisely what the state can do better than private markets. 
  Another important reason for the success of mobile telephones in the Nordic countries are long distances, and the difficulties in building a telephone network and linking holiday cottages, etc. into the network.  During long distance travel there is a lot of free time which can be used for telephone conversations (this applies also to rush hour traffic, when distances may not be long, but the waiting time is). Here also the Nordic work ethic may play a role: idleness is not seen as a positive thing. 
  Also, I would like to emphasize the role of historical accident (it has been noted that in most cases of technology development the result can not be predicted): in the Nordic countries the state-owned telephone authority was very profitable, not committed to alternative systems, and important components of the technology were locally available (even though this needed constant prodding by the state authorities, as Toivola 1989 notes in his story). In addition, there were clearly specified needs which required state intervention: coastal communications as well as the need to communicate with moving trains (after a serious train collision due to lack of communications). 
   In the case of mobile telephones, it also seems that the timely recruitment to the mobile telephone unit of a few enthusiastic engineers who did not let the bureaucratic obstacles hinder them, played an important role (Toivola 1989, 1992), especially in creating a uniform and technically efficient system for all the Nordic countries - in many European countries this has not been possible even inside one country. 
   In the Nordic countries, through joint agreements between the state telecommunication companies, the mobile telephone system developed very rapidly into a comprehensive, integrated system, where all telephones in the system were always accessible independently of their location (the NMT - Nordic Mobile Telephone). Thus, even though a mobile telephone with its Finnish owner might travel to Norway, somebody in Finland could locate it immediately, just by calling its number. Calls are possible almost everywhere in the settled parts of the Nordic countries and along all main roads. The user can really use the phone, not just show it off, as in Paris or in New York. 

   The existence of a dynamic private electronics industry (Nokia Mobile Phones, presently one of the leading manufacturers of portable telephones in the world; and Benefon, a smaller spinoff) has been in Finland (as LM Ericsson in Sweden) a very important factor for the development of mobile phones. It is quite probable that with this potential, the pressure and incentive to develop the infrastructure have been much higher than it would otherwise have been (about the Finnish high-tech industry, see Lovio 1989). So the prodding has been mutual. 
  Another important - and possibly decisive - aspect in the rapid growth and active use of the mobile phone in the Nordic countries is the price structure: even though the  handset is relatively expensive, its use is relatively cheap, compared to traditional telephones. The entrance fees or fixed costs are low,  In Europe, the tariffs are clearly lowest in the Nordic countries, where they differ very little. In 1991 only Switzerland was cheaper than Finland, Sweden or Norway, but with clearly higher fixed costs (Kelly 1991), but after recent price increases in Switzerland and devaluations in Sweden and Finland, the Finnish prices are clearly lowest. In the United States, for example, the handset is much cheaper, but the fixed costs are high, and the user can receive calls in very restricted areas. In Japan, another slow mover, the costs of using a mobile telephone have been prohibitively high, and buying a handset has not been possible. 

     The development of mobile phones in Finland

   The mobile telephone system in the Nordic countries (1981 in Sweden, 1982 in Finland) is the second oldest commercial public cellular system in the world; the Japanese NTT is much older (inaugurated in 1977). The origins of the system can be traced to special usages: communication between trains and stations, and communication between boats and the coastal stations. In both of these cases Finland has been one of the pioneers and the mobile phone technology has benefitted greatly from these early developments (Toivola, 1989, 1992; a similar impetus was provided by the police radio telephones in Denmark). Important innovations in primitive radio telephone systems have been to move an ongoing  call from one link station to another without interruption, and the ability of the system to locate the telephone receiver (roaming). 
  The developers of the system have described how, whenever a new mobile telephone service became available, the demand always and quite unexpectedly exceeded the supply. Everything that could be offered was sold immediately, and there was a strong pressure for further expansion. The first users were those small private entrepreneurs for whom permanent accessibility at their moving workplace (car, on the  construction site, etc.) was extremely useful. Although at first, the NMT phones were sold only to companies, the real "yuppie"-users, stock exhange traders, consultants, junior managers were relative latecomers, and not exclusive users as in most other countries. 
  In Finland, from an efficient countrywide radio telephone system in the 70's (ARP, which still has some 30,000 users)  the big step forward took place in 1982 when the NMT 450 system was introduced, to be followed in 1987 by the NMT 900. An important technical advantage was that the NMT 900 system offered a portable telephone, while the 450-system was used mainly in cars (for administrative, not technical reasons, to favor the use of the 900 network, which was and is less extensive). In January 1994 all mobile phone systems had about 480,000 users, the number having grown about 30% in 1991 and 37 % in 1993 and more than trebled from the end of 1988. In the Nordic countries as a whole, there were about 2 million users. Finland is presently first with regard to user density; 100 mobile telephones per 1000 inhabitants, and the growth has been rapid even during an extremely difficult depression. In Sweden this number was slightly lower and all EU countries as well as US and Japan trailed far behind (in 1993 Japan, Germany and France and UK about 10-20/1000, US about 50, but especially in Germany, the growth rates are extremely high). All these figures become obsolete very rapidly (about 5.5 million mobile phones were sold in 1991 in the world and the prediction for sales in 1994 is 20 million units!). In 1994, there were about as many mobile telephones in use Finland as in France! It is interesting that Japan is far behiong in the sales or manufacture of mobile phones, even though they were first with a mobile telephone system. In the US, the number of mobile telephones, was and is still astonishingly low (13 million by the end of 1993, i.e. a penetration rate of some 50/1000 inhabitants), and there is no nationwide roaming (see a special section on the USA). 
    The next step, the GSM system, a digital, all-European network, is being deployed and this will probably mean a very rapid growth in other European countries. Presently the situation in the Nordic countries is such that relatively few users are interested in the GSM network, which is still restricted to cities, and is really useful only for people who travel regularly between big European cities. The Finnish GSM system has two competing networks, one private and one state-owned, so that Finland will be a test case for comparing the advantages and disadvantages of both strategies, the former state monopoly and the present oligopolistic competition. It seems that competition makes expansion clearly slower: the competitors build networks only in the most profitable areas and thus some areas have double capacity and most parts of the country nothing. NMT 900 is still by far the most popular system (60 % of users), and the expected rapid growth of GSM has not yet materialized (see Svenska Dagbladet 7.3.1994). The situation is different in Germany, where GSM covers already most of the country. 
  It should also be mentioned here that at present, NMT is available in the St Petersburg area and in Estonia, where it is the best and most efficient way to get in touch with local firms. In fact, compared to the cost of building a traditional telephone network in a country that has an insufficient infrastructure, the mobile telephone system is much cheaper. It is estimated that the building of a complete NMT system in Finland has cost 1.7 billion FIM, roughly 400 million US$, and Finland is a large and very sparsely populated country. The NMT system has been adopted in the western parts of Russia, Poland and the Baltic states as their mobile telephone standard. 

 Users of mobile telephones

  There is not very much information on mobile telephone users in Finland. A study done in 1990 (Matkaviesti 4.90) showed that employers have bought and paid for the telephone in 41% of the cases and another 51% have bought their mobile phone for work purposes. Most of the users are 31-50 year old men. At present, only 14% have bought the telephone for private leisure and home use (but in 1993, already 48% of the new mobiles were for private use, Mäkelin 1994). This category is somewhat higher in portable phones. Most of the use takes place in the car (62%), but the percentage has already changed in one year in favour of other uses, especially the "outdoors" use category (from 13 to 19%). 
    We can divide the users into three categories: the large majority is small entrepreneurs, free-lance workers and lower-level employees who use mobile phones strictly in business. They are also mostly men.  Typical business-related user occupations are drivers (taxis, trucks), salesmen, building entrepreneurs, consultants, supervising foremen, free-lance artists. 
  The second group is lower and higher-level executives and professionals (in the southern Finland), roughly "yuppies", for whom the portable phone is often described as a status symbol, but who in many cases need the portable phone for accessibility, and who certainly use their mobile phones for leisure purposes also. They are also the most visible users, as they tend to use the telephone in public places (streets, trains etc.), outside offices and during week-ends. 
  The third, growing, category of users is "others": students, holiday cottage owners, pensioners, housewives and children, who are all very much under-represented. 
   Clearly under-represented among users are also government employees, industrial workers, and, importantly, women. The present low share of women indicates partly the lower mobility of women, partly their professional position. For example, the caring professions of the welfare state, dominated by women, are a very important area where portable telephones could be useful. It would be also nice to be able to get in touch with the state and local bureaucrats at all times, not only when they are sitting at their desk. 
   As to mobile telephones and women, this is very much an unexplored field (for a more general perspective, see a recent special issue on Gender and Technology in Media, Culture & Society 14 (1992)). In the meeting where this text was first presented, the majority of the speakers were women, but they never referred to the gender problem. When asked, one of them responded: "but it is so obvious!" Yet it seems to me that there may be some surprises when women get to use mobile phones. Experiences from equipping social workers who visit families with mobile phones show that they create new uses such as discussing professional problems on the road, creating a more network type work organization (Marja-Liisa Viherä, Helsingin Sanomat, 14.3.1993) 
  The time pattern for mobile telephone use is very distinctive: a sharp increase in the morning (7 am), a small peak during the lunch-hour and a high peak around  5 pm, when people are returning home from work, and a very sharp decrease after this. In Finland, it is much cheaper to call after 5 pm, but still the main usage takes place during the daytime (see Figure 6), which clearly means that work use still predominates. Calls are also very short: the majority of calls last less than three minutes. 

     A mobile telephone users' survey

     For the purposes of this article, Gallup in Finland posed these questions to their permanent panel "Gallup-channel" which is operated with PC/modem connection at the homes of the respondents: "In which situations do you normally use your mobile telephone?" and "Can you describe situations where the mobile telephone has been useful for you?" There are two samples, one for the whole country and one for the Helsinki metropolitan region. The latter is somewhat higher than average on income, education, professional status, but both are representative for the total population (with higher than average income and education and lower average age). Over the whole country, in January 1992, mobile phones were used by 24% of the population, 19% used car phones and 7% portable phones (the overlap indicates either two phones or a combination car-portable phone). In the Helsinki metropolitan region the percentage was lower: at 19%, but the share of portable phones was higher: at 9%. This implies that the use of car phones for work purposes is more important in the sparsely populated areas of the country. 
   Managers and entrepreneurs are clearly over-represented while lower employees, workers and farmers are under-represented. The men in the highest income category (over 250,000 FIM/year) have the clearly highest share of mobile telephones: 36%. Geographically mobile telephones are relatively evenly distributed, with the exception of the Helsinki metropolitan area (29%) 
   A second question, "For what purposes is the mobile telephone used" with three alternatives: work, home, and both equally, gave quite interesting results. With higher education, home and combined use increase strongly, especially solely home use. With higher incomes, home use is also much higher. In different socio-professional categories, managers use the mobile telephones least for work, 60% of them using it mainly for home and combined uses. But those workers who have a mobile telephone use it more for home and combined purposes than purely for work. The employees and entrepreneurs are those who use their telephones mostly for work. 
   In the open responses to the question about normal use, the responses can be divided into the following categories: 
frequency not necessarily having anything to do with actual importance, but the order following roughly the number of mentions 
  - work: 
   being available, getting in touch with clients, staying in touch with the office, finding clients (even literally asking for directions), informing about changes of schedule and the ability to fill unexpected empty times (a meeting/job ends earlier than expected, it may even be possible to arrange another or take another call) 
 "When travelling I can be reached by car phone. I take care of the urgent client contacts, call home to let them know my travel plans. It is cheaper than the coin phone or hotel telephone." 
 "Things that must be taken care of immediately. Secretary asks or informs. Changes in my travel program. A piece of information from office." 
 "I am available. I move a lot, I take care of almost all my business by mobile phone." 
   In several comments the normal and routine nature of mobile telephone use is emphasized. Just because it is so routine there is nothing to say about it. This has mainly to do with work, but in some cases all aspects of the respondents' lives. 
 "It is used just in business, not unnecessarily. Always useful." 
 "It is always necessary, I can't specify." 
 "I can't think of anything specific, my car phone is part of everyday life." 

  A second important category of use is emergencies and unexpected situations. The telephone is used when urgent need arises but otherwise it is not used very much. This goes especially for car telephones. In this case the reachability concept is not important and the owner himself does not make calls. The basic aspect is security: being able to get help quickly. 
 "Once when I had a bad accident, I could call my wife to get my things from the scene of the accident when I was taken to the hospital" 
 "When we saw a grass fire start, we could call the fire brigade." 
  "When I got stuck in a lonely road, I could call for help" 
In Finland, emergency calls in situations of personal threat (robbery, rape, etc.) do not seem be very common. They are not a sales argument, at least not yet. 
   A third important use category is social use, conviviality. The mobile and especially the portable telephone greatly facilitate contacts between the most intimate network; spouse, children, close relatives, friends. This is often also connected with work use. During long work trips it is possible to talk to home: 
 "When driving it is refreshing to be able to talk to my wife, for instance." 
 "I always call some relative when standing in the rush-hour queue, (...)" 
 "I announce my arrival times, I take care of simple business, I stay in touch with friends." 
 " I call my boyfriend and ask him when he is coming home, what would he like to eat, etc. And when I am spending the weekend someplace, my parents and friends can reach me." 
  Of course conviviality is part of traditional telephone use also. But there are several subtle changes in this conviviality; it is possible to keep your partner posted about your current whereabouts or imminent arrival, to reassure when conditions are bad, to talk in total privacy (from a car, or out in the wild. The problem of listening such conversations exists, but is not very high in everyday use and in urban areas and certainly not something that people worry about). 
   A typical leisure use is the use of mobile telephone as a cottage telephone or as a boat telephone. Finns quite often have isolated holiday cottages, which usually do not have telephones, or even electricity. Thus the "mobile" phone is actually just used as a fixed, but cordless phone. In boats, the function is the same. 
   There are also some cases of aversion in the replies. The telephone is used only for absolutely necessary contacts or emergencies: "Only if I am somewhere where other means of communication are not possible." I interpret this to mean that the aversion is related mainly to the concept of permanent reachability, resented by many people. 
  There are also special situations: when the respondent is in the sauna (it is probably not very healthy for the phone to talk for a long time!) or when the respondent wishes to talk to "other women" or when you can warn your friend or colleague about a police speed control. Also it is practical for making hotel reservations when travelling by car. Finding directions is probably also very common. 
  The "yuppies" who use their telephones in trains or restaurants or at public places (or even in a boat at a harbor, where everything is clearly audible), speaking very loudly, in places which have previously been "silent" (public transport, waiting lounges) are often criticized in newspapers or private discussions, and lamented by many supporters of mobile phones who think it has unfairly given a bad reputation to a good device (Mäkitalo 1990, M.A. Numminen 1992). The main complaint against yuppies is that they don't really need the mobile telephone; it is just one more phallic symbol for them  or they use it only for show, as publicly as possible. This has led to the situation where serious users must become more discreet, and not carry their phones in restaurants, for instance.  It has also meant that people who do not want to be identified as yuppies cannot buy a mobile phone yet; there are even recent advertisements, which argue "whoever thinks that there are 300 000 yuppies in Finland in these days, is surely wrong"  in order to make the point that many ordinary citizens are also buying mobile phones. The threshold is clearly high, even though it may be already cheaper to use a mobile phone than a traditional one (if you make only short calls  and move a lot; hotel telephone calls are very expensive, for instance). 

     What does a mobile telephone mean?

     What can we say about the relationship of mobile telephones to the way of life? To me it seems obvious that mobile telephones facilitate far more flexible work arrangements, a more intense family contact network, increased sociability for those who need it, an opportunity to combine an active, mobile way of life with the types of contacts previously related only to staying at home ("you are always away from home so it is impossible to get in touch with you"); that is, they make it easier to combine previously mutually exclusive ways of life, making thus ways of life more ambivalent, a trend which in my view is especially typical for the innovator groups in society, the new middle classes and "new" fractions of other classes as well (see Roos 1990). In all cases, the mobile telephone rapidly becomes a normal, self-evident part of one's life ("I don't understand how I managed before"). 
      Thus, for most users, a mobile telephone is a working tool which greatly facilitates and increases efficiency. When asked if they remember any specific situations, they say, "I can't say, it is always useful." Those, who have acquired it recently, describe how their life has changed.  "I have used the telephone for nine months. I carry the telephone daily in my pocket; at night it is beside my bed. I don't usually carry it in my hand. When I'm in my shirtsleeves, I usually leave the telephone in my coat pocket or in the charger. Because the telephone is usually ready for use, I can be reached pretty well day and night. In practice there are not so many calls that they would disturb me. I usually make very short calls, arising from my work. I can ask about a detail during a meeting from a colleague, who is not there. I can also call a taxi wherever I am. I don't have to look for a free telephone or queue for a phone booth or change coins...." 
   It is clear that even in Finland the mobile telephone has both profited and suffered from its yuppie image, an inadvertent result of the fact that private persons could not buy it in the beginning. Its visibility was yuppie visibility, connected with expensive cars, restaurants, airports. 

  From a theoretical and historical point of view, this is a very interesting problem. It seems that when the telephone originally was introduced, its diffusion was quite discriminatory. For a long time the telephone remained an upper class utility and it was kept deliberately out of the reach of the workers and farmers (and women, see Martin 1991). The private monopoly saw this as the most profitable strategy which enabled high prices and a technologically developed, but very selective network. The upper consumer segment demand was still largely untapped and there was no need to develop a mass market. On the other hand, if the telephone companies would have embarked on a mass market directly, they would have not been able to capitalize on the telephone as a very distinctive and exclusive consumer article. This is what Michele Martin does not understand as she wonders about the "irrational" strategy of the private monopolies (1991, 311-312, 327). 
   The central European and American mobile telephone companies are obviously following the same strategy of high prices, exclusive use  and avoidance of mass markets. In the Nordic countries, the strategy has been rather twofold: a business market (both large and small businesses) and a mass market where price has not been prohibitive. The distinctive, yuppie use has been rather a nuisance, something to be stamped out as soon as possible. This is also a very telling change if one thinks of the class  structure now and 100 years ago. The upper classes are no more a distinct market and the upper middle yuppie segment has a very ambivalent meaning for the product image, contrary to the ideas of Pierre Bourdieu: distinctive use gives the product a bad image! 
   There are two antipodes of mobile telephone communication: the impersonal, short business communication: agreement on a date, place, delivery, a piece of information; and on the other hand the highly personal, intimate conversation with a spouse, relative, friend, lover. 
   As noted above, the third dimension are emergency calls made in exceptional situations: short but highly charged with emotion. Here the speed is of utmost importance. The importance of mobile telephones may here be absolutely crucial, when no other means of rapid communications are available. 
   The second aspect, that of private, intimate conversation is mentioned by several of our respondents. It is also logical that in making calls from a mobile telephone you call mainly the numbers in your memory or in the memory of the telephone, that is, numbers used frequently. But also in receiving calls many mobile telephone users know where the call is coming from; from the spouse, office, etc. Only those users, for whom the telephone gives complete reachability (as a mobile office) receive calls from "unexpected" callers. This will change as mobile telephones are integrated into a system of a personal number or chains of numbers. The association with the PC is very apt: in the future, most of us work with texts and people will have both portable PC's and portable PP's (personal phones). 
   It seems certain that there will be an explosion of new very creative uses, connected with the extremely rapid technological development. The newest models show the number of the caller, take small text messages, can be connected to e-mail networks, have an incredible array of memory functions (in fact, the telephones may become much too complicated for ordinary users!). 
   One aspect which has not been touched on in the Finnish discussions about mobile telephones, but which seem relevant for example in Germany, is the question of surveillance and secrecy. This extends from the ability of spouses to reach each other at any time, thus eliminating any possibility of privacy (already highly relevant in employer-employee relationships), to the more sinister possibilities of monitoring telephone conversations and the ability to trace a person anywhere. It is an interesting cultural fact that this does not seem to worry Finns at all. For them the Finnish state is a benign welfare state, not a Leviathan prepared to destroy and enslave its citizens. The question of reachability is seen as a problem relative to private uses, but not with respect to the state. 

    This discussion can be summarized in five related dimensions which describe and define mobile phones: 

  fixed             mobile
  isolated        accessible
  lagged          instantaneous
  public           private
  impersonal   personal

   Thus it would seem natural that the mobile portable telephone is defined by its mobility, accessibility, immediacy, privacy and personal use.  This is, however, misleading. In all the dimensions above, the mobile telephone is very ambiguous. It can be used precisely as a fixed phone, to protect your isolation (contact is made only at will, and only with a few intimates), to communicate with time-lag and as a completely public phone where outsiders may have to (or be able to) listen to intimate conversations, as well as only for formal, impersonal communication. 
   This versatility, especially in the public, private and isolated, and accessible dimensions gives the mobile telephone no clear social function and its role in changing the society and social interaction depends on other developments. It increases both our accessibility and nomadic isolation and it increases both the intimate privacy and public nature of telephone communication. 
   Paradoxically, the most important aspect of the mobile telephone may be the ability to reach others with it and to be reachable anywhere, which implies both absolute mobility and the opposite of mobility! The owner of a mobile telephone may be highly mobile, but is always "at home", always "there", as long as he or she is with his PP, thus making simultaneously possible a freely floating, higly mobile society and a very traditional, immobile social and spatial structure. These paradoxes are typically described as post-modern; the least we can say is that mobile PP's are not making post-modernity more difficult. 


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J.P. Roos, Life style studies in sociology; From typologies to fields and trajectories, in Somogyi et al (eds): Nutritional Adaptation to New Life-Styles, Karger, Basel 1990, pp. 1-16 
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Téléphone mobile et modes de vie, Sofres/Cnet, Paris 1990 
Keijo Toivola, Kertomus Suomen matkaviestinnästä (The Story of Finnish Mobile Telephones)  Telecom Finland, Helsinki 1992 
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   J.P.ROOS: 300,000 Yuppies? Mobile phones in Finland

     The mobile telephone is a technological development which is bound to have important social consequences. Its development has been extremely uneven in the industrially developed countries and mysteriously, the Nordic countries are very clearly in the lead. Several explanations are possible: economic, technical, geographic or political, but none of the are exclusive for Nordic countries. A survey among mobile telephone users shows that the popularity of mobile phones is based on two opposite reasons: perfect reachability  and a perceived immediate intimacy, all of which and be summed up in the term personal phone (PP). 

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