There is not a day without using the mobile phone. It’s not necessarily me – but it is everyone around me, too. It is an all-encompassing presence in daily life and in the professional life of the people I talk to as it is in mine.
The preference of oral personal communication is now held up and extended through mobile communication technologies in form of calls. It is perfectly fine to take calls at all times and places, in the office, during conversations, on bus rides and at the pagoda. It seems there is no particular difference to talking to a person next to you physically or virtually.
With the Internet access becoming cheaper during the last year also the usage of messaging apps has increased. Facebook is immensely popular and for most people it even equals the world wide web. It is a primary source of information – at the moment mostly for interpersonal exchange – but at the same time posts that are rumours or propagandistic more than anything else become difficult to differentiate from news.
Now it may seem that my primary research focus has nothing to do with that. I thought of my mobile phone as a necessity of getting into touch and being reachable – the phone number is the first thing that is exchanged wherever I go – so for me it is a part of my equipment. But I have the feeling that there is more to it – it makes me a real person here, someone you can contact on your own initiative and reach anytime. I am happy that in this way the communication is two sided right from the beginning and my idea of an exchange has realized with much less effort than I thought.
But not effortless at all on the technical side: it took quite a while to find out why I cannot write Myanma on my phone or read anything I receive on one of the channels. It’s not like I have no clue about technology – but installing whatever Myanma keyboard or font – no chance. I learned that my phone has a European root and another Asian one is necessary (don’t ask me about exact terms here). But no mobile shop was able to change my phone’s software to be two-rooted.
Finally I went to the Sony store where I was told that no one can do it, not only because the Sony Software is somewhat particular… no exactly my phone model Sony Z3 Compact cannot have this second root in general (at least that is what I understood).
I explained that I really want to read and write on my phone and asked if there is no way around buying a new phone in order to do so?
And tadaa there is! Actually there are many: my phone now has a Facebook for Myanmar app, a SMS for Myanmar app and a Browser for Myanmar app. So with the help of these I can now communicate in myanma.
Unfortunately it doesn’t work for other messengers to that I need to use Facebook all the time. It is my personal skepticism that usually leads me around using it, especially the messenger that wants to access just about everything – but for research’s sake I comprised on that one 😉
So in the field I found several ways how the mobile phone is now used for conducting business and exchanging ideas. Photographs of designs, books with a desired pattern and fabrics seen elsewhere in the world are sent to the local workshops. Ordering fabric, having a first look on the colour combination and receiving the information that you can now come and pick up your fabric that has been in process for around 3 months – all this takes place through mobile communication technologies. Mobile phones have been passing by computers without second thoughts. It is just the way how things have always worked – via direct personal communication, only that now you can even send pictures. In the domain of the material culture, in this case the production process of fabrics, it would be an error to ignore this important tool and it’s functions and the consequences that arise here from using it. Cutting it short and simple: Demand and supply are connected faster and even more direct without intermediaries.
And not to forget: mobile phones are great calculators, dictionaries and many weavers I visited enjoyed listening to music while at work. In this regard there is another app that I didn’t know earlier but everyone here uses to exchange music and apps: Zapya. I figure it’s popularity has to do with the restricted access to fast Internet to download everything just by yourself. When you exchange data like this, you only need the Bluetooth connection between the handsets.
So in the end, it’s never easy, but people here always come up with a solution.