Locative Lab

researching locative media

Your Choice of Network May Influence Your Relationships

Your Choice of Network May Influence Your Relationships

Saturday’s New York Times reports on the impact wireless carriers are having on their customers relationships by offering plans that encourage people to connect to individuals within the network:

“The carriers… set up plans that encourage subscribers to talk mainly to people in the same network. The companies are say they are simply trying to recruit and retain customers.

But what was set up as a purely business strategy is having an unintentional effect. It is dividing people who share informal bonds and bringing together those who have formal networks of cellphone ‘friends’.”

Those most affected by this are young adults who use their mobile phones extensively to keep in touch with their proportionally larger friendship networks, yet who are most sensitive to the cost of doing so.

While some carriers are providing options for staying in contact with people outside of their networks, there are restrictions. T-Mobile forces their customers to pick their “fave 5″, while others offer cheaper messaging after a certain hour at night or on the weekend. The upshot is that the wireless bonds between friends on competing networks loosen while those on the same network strengthen.

Another result is the migration of friendship networks en masse from one carrier to another. Pity the poor unfortunates who get stuck in a contract and can’t follow the herd. They had better plan on finding some new in-network friends.


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Cityscape LocativeLab.org is Ronald Lenz's research website on locative & mobile media. This is mostly an archive of blogposts I find inspiring and interesting and an overview of my work. I'm a strategist, technologist and researcher in the field of Location-Based Mobile Services and work at Waag Society, a medialab in Amsterdam, The Netherlands where I head the Locative Media research program and at 7scenes, a platform for GPS games and tours as creative director. Picture 4 Find me at Twitter, LinkedIn or via ronald [at] waag [dot] org.

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