Monday, July 19, 2010

More using mobile phones to teach sociology - Deviance

This past spring semester I was trying to use my smart phone to teach rational choice theory, which suggests potential criminals are rational -- they, like any other rational person -- will weigh the pros and cons of a potential situation, and then carry out the crime if the pros sufficiently outweigh the cons.

So I blantaly left my T-Mobile Dash on a student's desk in the front row and said, "Now if rational choice theory holds true, 'Joe-Shmo' would weigh the pros and cons of stealing my phone, such as the chances of getting caught, how much my phone is worth, if he has a phone, blah blah blah." That whole "worth" thing played into my example. The student pulled out his iPhone, chuckled and asked, "Why would I steal a T-mobile Dash when I have an iPhone?" The smaller value of my phone didn't make the benefits of committing the theft very high for this student.

A few weeks later the battery in my smart phone was incessantly dying so I had to buy the newer version of the T-mobile Dash. During the time I had to wait for my new phone to arrive, I started using my old mobile phones (whose batteries still kicked ass) largely to see how people would react to them (see pictures above and below). Not surprisingly, I was ridiculed by friends, not maliciously, but ridiculed nonetheless (these are people, by the way, in their mid-20s to late-30s).

In short, I was made deviant because I was openly using an "old school" phone without a keyboard, internet access, in one case, no camera, etc. Best Buy currently has a few commercials out better illustrating this point -- that if you don't have some kind of fancy smart phone, you are rendered deviant in one way or another. Notably, one of my best friends made fun of my old school phone by saying how embarrassing it would be to bust out that phone in the presence of a woman. On to the commercial:

So, as a male, if you don't have the financial capital to possess a kick ass phone, you are a deviant male, with a low-end job (sharing a cubicle), without technical prowess (can't stay on top of your e-mail or access the net), and bottom line, you aren't an attractive mate. I still remember the college days when nobody had cell phones.

Today, popular culture infiltrates our identities such that we are encouraged to spend, spend, spend on technologies that make us more desirable in various ways. And if you don't purchase the latest high tech gadgets, you are defined as deviant by society (even if the metals in those high-tech gadgets contribute to horrific mineral wars in central Africa).

Eventually, I got my upgraded smart phone that I now wear proudly on my hip.

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