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According to the instrumental theory of technology, mobile technologies - what McLuhan's refers to as electronic prostheses - promise opportunities for greater freedom, creativity, leisure, and productivity by enhancing organic bodily functions. Correspondingly, as (Cavallaro, 2000) would argue, objects such as mobile phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), portable physiotherapy units, laptops, and portable stereos - to name just a few - seem to impart a sense of solidity to consumers' lives. Just like prostheses, they are inserted into our everyday lives, helping our "inadequate" bodies along in fulfilling practical tasks. Phenomenologically, these kinds of mobile technologies supposedly support the subject's sense of ontological completeness and security. On the other hand the substantial theory of technology draws together less optimistic commentators. Among a host of other things, they stress the "panoptic" nature of new information and communication technologies (Clarke, 1994; Marx, 1999; Poster, 1995; Webster, 1995). The emphasis in these accounts is on the potential for surveillance and monitoring that these technologies place in the hands of the powerful. Mobile technologies according to this view is but the latest incarnation of capitalist (the Marxist view) or state (the libertarian view) power and control fantasies. Far from empowered and freed, the subject becomes captured and enslaved by these mobile communication devices. Phenomenologically, the networked worker and consumer subject is the disciplined and docile slave of the information matrix.

Publisher Statement

Paper presented at the conference H.O.I.T. (Home Oriented Informatics and Telematics) 2003: The Networked Home and the Home of the Future, April 6-8, 2003, University of California, Irvine.

The conference was sponsored by The Center for Research on Information Technology and Organizations (CRITO) at the University of California, Irvine. It was co-sponsored with the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP).

The purpose of the conference was "to present papers, exchange ideas between and among researchers from different disciplines relating to the impact of new technologies on family/work life and the developments concerning the future of the networked home." The participants included "researchers and specialists form Universities, Research Organizations, Industry and Government."

The conference Web site can be found at