Chapter Four looks at how the BlackBerry has be taken up by its users and how it is talked about by the media and SST scholars. As with the previous chapter, this examination is framed by Ursula Franklin's (1990) foundational assumption that language reveals a society's values and priorities (p.126). In Chapter Three, this assumption provided a rational to examine the language used to promote the BlackBerry. In this chapter, the same principles are used to justify examining media reports and scholarship on the adaptation of the BlackBerry; the themes that are highlighted by these two groups point back to societal values and priorities. These two groups have been chosen as sources for this topic as they are among the most prominent groups to report on public trends. Sherry Turkle (2004) links the two groups by saying that their narratives share a tendency toward hyperbole, which she attributes to "being subject to similar market forces" (p.19).
A common thread that runs through both academic and media reports on the BlackBerry is a concern with what type of a relationship it is appropriate to have with technological devices. It is this interaction - an ongoing concern about humanity's relationship with technology - that this chapter delves into by examining the discourses surrounding the BlackBerry and what they reveal about societal concerns. Turkle (2004) broadly sums up the potential of our interactions with technology: "It does things for us, but also to us, to our ways of perceiving the world, to our relationships and sense of ourselves" (p.23).
Castells et al. (2006) emphasize that our interaction with mobile technologies are so fundamental that "social practices, values, and organizational patterns [have] emerged from the interaction between mobile communication and society (p.246). Sturken and Turkle (2004) write about societal concerns about the role of technology in our lives:
[we have] genuine confusion about the lack of distinction between the real and the simulated, and what kind of 'relationship' it is appropriate to have with a machine Behind the spin lie our concerns about technology going out of control and about the human costs and technological change (p.9, 22).
With the level of integration that various technologies have made into our lives it appears that confusion about these relationships is inescapable. Two of the main themes that appear in media and academic coverage on the BlackBerry concern issues of addiction and work/life conflict, which points back to the broader theme of negotiating relationships with technology. Turkle (2004) refers to the discourse surrounding technology as "spin" She writes:
Spin is distracting. Overheated debates about computer addiction and Internet depression keep us from confronting issues raised by contemporary technology that are resistant to the oversimplification of spin (p.23).
As far as Turkle is concerned, spin simply deflects the necessary reflection to consider what type of relationship it is appropriate to have with a machine (p.28).
The first section of this chapter gives a sampling of media stories on the BlackBerry, and the second section reports on the empirical work done by academics regarding the BlackBerry and issues of technology and work-life balance. However, only the BlackBerry - and not the Pearl - will be discussed in this chapter. At the time of research for this thesis the Pearl had only recently been released and had not worked its way into media reports or academic studies. While the Pearl and the BlackBerry are marketed toward different audiences, many of the issues that are addressed concerning the BlackBerry are applicable to the Pearl.
The media abound with anecdotes of BlackBerry user's various levels of "addiction", stories that often appear as a bravado contest of which story is more ludicrous, from users dropping the device into toilets to emailing during their children's Christmas play (Avery and Waldie, 2006). BlackBerrys have been described as "de rigueur among political and financial powerbrokers and jet-setting executives" by Ken Belson at the New York Times (2006). In reporting on the ruling that enabled RIM to continue operating in the U.S. during the patent lawsuit, a breathless Belson writes, "Masters of the universe from Wall Street to Washington and beyond breathed a sigh of relief on Friday when a federal judge in Virginia put off a decision on whether to shut down the BlackBerry wireless e-mail service" (2006). The following anecdotes demonstrate the revere and cult status of the BlackBerry.
RIM built its customer base by focusing on corporate and political users early on. Part of the marketing strategy when it released the BlackBerry in 1998 was to deliver thousands of free devices to the influencers (holder's of cultural, social, and economic power) in politics in Washington, D.C., Wall Street financers, Hollywood, and journalists. The device quickly developed a devoted following on Wall Street and Capitol Hill. BlackBerry users on Capitol Hill came to regard the BlackBerry as indispensable after the 9/11 attacks as it was the only communications device that still operated after cell phone communications had been cut out (McKenna et al., 2006). This event sealed BlackBerry as the "go-to" item for secure government communications. During the patent dispute, when an injunction threatened to shut-down BlackBerry service in the U.S., House Speaker Dennis Hastert intervened on RIM's behalf, arguing that shutting off the devices threatened national security (McKenna et al., 2006). Over the course of the lawsuit the Justice Department also got involved on behalf of the Federal Reserve, saying that the Department wanted non-governmental organizations added to the "white list" (organizations that would be excluded from a BlackBerry service shutdown in case of an injunction), including the regional federal reserve banks that use BlackBerrys to communicate with the Federal Reserve. Access to BlackBerrys was linked to ensuring a stable economy; a lawyer for the U.S. Department of Justice was quoted as saying that BlackBerrys were "Important for monetary supply, particularly in a time of crisis" (Avery, "The BlackBerry Conundrum" 2006). Castells et al. (2006) also noted the use of BlackBerrys during and after the September 11 attack (p.98-99). In addition to serving as communication lines to family and friends, the devices were used to coordinate emergency response. The implicit endorsements the BlackBerry received from the U.S. Government led Stuart Weinberg of The Wall Street Journal to ask "Could RIM have bought this type of publicity?" (2006). The U.S. Government has declared that they don't know of a product that works better or that could replace the BlackBerry for the purposes it has been used for so far.
Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, is yet another highly-placed BlackBerry enthusiast. Bush prided himself on his public accessibility, listing his email address publicly and claiming that he personally responds to hundreds of constituent emails a day. He refers to himself as the first "e-governor." At the end of every governor's term a portrait is commissioned and the governor is painted in a setting of his/her choice, surrounded by a few key objects that symbolize his/her tenure. Jeb Bush chose to have himself immortalized in his portrait with a BlackBerry sitting on his bookshelf, next to a picture of his family (Higgins, 2007). RIM's initial marketing strategy, to place the BlackBerry with high profile influencers, served its purpose. The BlackBerry quickly became the standard communication device on Capitol Hill and Wall Street, leading to ever-expanding circles of usage as those who deal with those institutions adapted the technology.
The seeming dependency some users have on their BlackBerrys led some to dub the device "crackberry" in reference to the highly addictive drug, crack cocaine. One of the first appearances of the term "crackberry" was in a 2000 interview with Geoff Colvin, RIM's Chief Financial Officer, on CNBC when he said: "Well, it is addictive and on Wall Street they call it crackberry for exactly that reason. Once you try it you can't live without it, so they say" (2000). The term doesn't seem to show up in the media again until May of 2004. On May 30, 2004, Jennifer Lee published an article in the New York Times called "A BlackBerry Throbs, And a Wonk Has a Date." The article outlines the popularity of the device with politicians and their staff in Washington, D.C. and the level of interruption the device causes in personal relationships, the constant desire to check the device resulting in its "crackberry" nickname. On May 3, 2004, in the Toronto Star, an article called "Sour Grapes over MPPs' BlackBerries" was published. The Toronto Star reported on the tension the BlackBerry had caused in the Ontario Legislature, quoting the Speaker of the House (at the time), Alvin Curling, as saying the use of BlackBerrys had "gotten out of hand, especially since the electronic devices are prohibited in the Legislature." Curling was particularly perturbed when another minister was seen reading a statement off her BlackBerry in the Legislature, declaring a "war on crackberrys." Both articles reference the addictive qualities of the device and use the term crackberry. Perhaps because BlackBerry use feels like an addictive experience, it appears that whatever the disadvantages of work intrusions into home life, the vast majority of people who already had such a device would want to keep them. Towers et al. (2005) report that 95 per cent of the workers they interviewed said they would keep the items of Work Extending Technologies (WET) they currently had, and that half would upgrade and that one in three wanted to get a BlackBerry (p.18). As will be demonstrated, social faux pas with BlackBerrys have gone far beyond the 2004 incident in the Ontario Legislature that sparked one of the first official mentions of the term crackberry.
Matt Richtel, of The New York Times, reports on theories of addiction, in an article inspired by a 12-hour service stoppage of the BlackBerry network in late-April 2007. Richtel writes:
Some theorize that constant use becomes ritualistic physical behavior, even addiction, the absorption of nervous energy, like chomping gum This behavior is then fueled by powerful social motivators. Interaction with a device delivering data gives a feeling of validation, inclusion and desirability (2004).
A CNet News article from 2004 lists a number of high-level politicians and public figures who have been "caught" using BlackBerrys in inappropriate venues (Kane, 2004). The first example was U.S. Senate candidate Peter Duetsch, who was caught checking messages on his BlackBerry during a live, televised debate. He claimed to have only been checking during commercial breaks. The CNet article cites a Time Magazine report that describes Karl Rove as "[wearing] his war room on his belt" during the 2002 U.S. election, and that "even during meetings with President Bush, found it hard to let the BlackBerry alone" (Kane, 2004). During Ronald Reagan's funeral in the National Cathedral, Vice-President's daughter, Liz Cheney, was spotted sending messages on her BlackBerry.
On February 20, 2006, Simon Avery of The Globe and Mail bylined an article titled "BlackBerry Users Press Away as Date Nears." The article cites a litany of bizarre and addicted behaviours from BlackBerry users, as a testament to how ingrained and necessary this product is in its user's lives. Stories range from the mild claim that one user who responds to 90 per cent of emails within minutes, to another person who checks his emails while brushing his teeth in the morning. One lawyer admits to dropping his BlackBerry in the toilet, twice; and a Toronto-area woman enjoys taking her baby out in a stroller while emailing with one free hand. Avery goes on to cite user's various rationales for using the technology, from those who believe the device helps differentiate themselves from the competition, makes them "far more efficient and effective than without it", to the knowledge that the only reason they could be out of the office spending time with their children is because they are able to stay remotely connected to work. Toward the end of the article Avery begins to get into user concerns with the technology, citing a user who acknowledges that along with the freedom, the technology also creates higher expectations from employees and customers. This female user says:
Even if you're picking up an armful of kids, the expectation is you're going to be available and on the ball We're really, really conscious about our quality of life and the time we have with each other and our children, and how easy it is for that time to get compromised. So we're conscious that our BlackBerrys add to that time and that they do not hinder it (Avery, "BlackBerry users press away, 2006).
At the end of the article, Avery hits on the reason that was undoubtedly at the core of RIM's decision to create the Pearl, a device that was designed to serve personal and business communications needs in one sleekly-designed product. Avery observes that "Like most BlackBerry users, Ms. Steinbrecher has found the device has become a tool for managing personal affairs as well as business" (2006, BlackBerry users press away). As business users increasingly find themselves using their BlackBerry's to manage their personal as well as professional lives, RIM tapped into this trend - and that of increasing mobile phone uptake around the world - when the company created the Pearl.
Overuse of BlackBerrys has become so common that in late 2006 the American Physical Therapy Association recognized the "BlackBerry Thumb" as an official stress-related injury. A story that appeared on MSNBC reports that the "Hyatt hotel chain found so many of their business travelers were complaining of hand and arm discomfort that they introduced a special 'BlackBerry Balm' hand massage at most of their North American spas" (Reuters, 2006). As demonstrated by the proliferation of media reports, the BlackBerry is a highly integrated device, and with this level of use, use is bound to spill over into family life. Media reports make brief mention of work-family balance issues, but it is the academic community that has conducted in-depth empirical research into the impact this pervasive technology has had on family life.
The decision to promote the BlackBerry as a tool of efficiency is not arbitrary, as it development reflects the social and cultural conditions in which they develop. Lewis Mumford (1934) wrote "The machine cannot be divorced from its larger social pattern; for it is this pattern that gives it meaning and purpose" (p.100). Today's current socio-economic environment supports a model where productivity is ranked among the most important outcomes; an ideal that arose as an economic model and is now being extended into the personal realm through a discourse associated with a consumer product. The appeal for many BlackBerry users is the increased productivity they feel it brings to their lives. This is a point that RIM highlights in its promotional materials, and is a benefit that shows up in empirical research as well.
Towers et al. (2005) found in their study that "A clear majority of respondents indicate that their use of this type of WET had increased their productivity" (p.16). Middleton reports in her 2007 study "Illusions of Balance and Control in an Always-on Environment: A Case Study of BlackBerry Users" that
BlackBerry users find their devices to be empowering, allowing them more control over their environments. The BlackBerry does give its users a mechanism to exert control over the management of daily communication tasks, but by virtue of its always-on, always-connected nature, it also reinforces cultures that expect people to be accessible outside normal business hours. Rather than just a tool of liberation for its users, the BlackBerry can also be understood as an artifact that reflects and perpetuates organisational cultures in which individual employees have little control and influence (p.2).
Middleton (2007) cites a 2005 study by Mazmanian, Orlikowski and Yates that reports mobile email users were expected to, and did, respond more quickly to email than people who did not have access to a mobile device (p.2). She found that BlackBerry users had a high level of commitment to their work and viewed the BlackBerry as a way to allow the user to "cope with the extended demands of their time that were accepted as 'the nature of the job' in today's (North American) business environment" (2007, p.11-12). She also found that users valued their mobility in terms of "efficiency, immediacy, accessibility, and flexibility" (2007, p.10, 7). The scope of Middleton's (2007) work is limited as the data is based on interviews with 13 BlackBerry users in metro areas of Canada (p.6). She addresses this at the beginning of the paper, pointing out that there is very little academic work on the organizational usage of mobile email, and that BlackBerrys themselves have received even little notice in studies of technology usage by mobile professionals (2007, p.4). As such, Middleton's report serves as one of the few studies conducted so far on BlackBerrys and as a starting point for further research. Based on the empirical results compiled so far it appears that BlackBerry use increases a user's responsiveness and productivity, but an appropriate follow-up question to that should be "at what cost?"
Towers et al. (2005) question the agency users have in taking on these devices. Many BlackBerry users, as reported in the media, feel that their 24/7 accessibility is what gives them an edge over their competition. However, another motivation for WET practices that Towers et al. (2005) suggest is that "It is difficult for employees not to carry out work extension precisely because they are uncertain and insecure, and competing for scarce resources - like promotion"(p.26). Higgins and Duxbury (2005) write about a culture of hours and how in that environment it is understood that long working hours are necessary for success and advancement (p.2). Middleton (2007) describes the culture of the BlackBerry as being "cultures of delivery" and "cultures of performance", where the focus is on doing "whatever it takes to get the job done" (p.11). Whether the motivation for using the devices is organizational or personally driven, it is an atmosphere in which users do not want to fall behind. As the BlackBerry becomes increasingly integrated into user's lives new relationships and boundaries have to be negotiated as the technology comes home with the user.
As the boundaries between work and home life are blurred a new consumer niche is created. This thesis does not claim that technology is the primary or driving force in this trend, but rather that it is part of a wider neoliberal condition in which flows of capital and resources are spilling over into domestic lives. A space exists for the development of a technology product that consolidates the communications needs for public and private life into one device. This is where the Pearl comes in, with email functionality to address work issues, a mobile phone to keep in contact with one's social network, and videogame capability for personal entertainment. These are only a few of the Pearl's capabilities, but capabilities that span work, the social, and the personal.
RIM's move into the videogame market is of particular interest, as it serves to confirm RIM's strategy of capturing a consumer-based market with the Pearl. In an article appearing in The New York Times in March 2007, Laurie Flynn reports that according to many market analysts RIM may have nearly saturated the business market now that there are nearly eight million subscribers. However, according to the market-research company IDC, consumers bought more than a billion mobile phones in 2006, a 22 per cent increase over 2005. It follows that if RIM could break into even a small segment of that growing market they could stand to significantly grow their business - and video games may be a way to do that. RIM announced a deal with Gameloft, a leading maker of games for cell phones, to produce a line of mobile games for the BlackBerry. Flynn quotes Mr. Guibert, Vice-President of Corporate Marketing at RIM: "With the release of the Pearl in September, RIM modified the design of the BlackBerry to create a more consumer-friendly smartphone, with a sleeker form as well as a camera and MP3 player...The BlackBerry Pearl was designed to attract new customers that hadn't considered BlackBerry previously. And those customers tend to play games" (2007).
Perhaps RIM's discourse that promotes themes of family and leisure is tapping into this concern about technology dividing and separating users from private life. RIM positions the Pearl as a tool that can successfully combine and bridge these two areas. Sturken and Thomas (2004) touch on this topic as well; addressing what they believe is a current concern that humans have lost their ability to make close connections in a world of technologically-mediated communications.
The belief that communication technologies can promote human connectivity is coupled with the fear that actual human connection has been irretrievably lost Technological change is popularly understood as irreversible (p.3).
The empirical work done so far into work-life balance shows inconsistent findings. In a study entitled "Shifting Boundaries: Technology, Time, Place and Work", Towers et al. (2005) report that 70% of respondents said technology had increased their workloads and increased the amount of stress they were under; however 68% said it made their jobs more interesting while 65% said that it had made them more productive (p.4). Over a third (38%) said that technology had made it easier to balance work and family, but a similarly sized group said that technology had made balance more difficult. According to the same study, "Three-fourths of BlackBerry users consider this technology important with respect to their ability to get their work done" (2005, p.11). Middleton (2007) found that the BlackBerry users she interviewed didn't question their commitment to long hours and that they were totally engaged with their jobs (p.10). Towers et al. (2005) reported that "employees use the technology almost as much during the weekend as during the week" (p.7). However, "Many users commented on instances where their device brought a family or personal issue into their work environment, and this was not perceived as being disruptive" (Middleton, 2007, p.14). As reported by Duxbury and Higgins (2001), stress-levels have everything to do with perceived control, although they do not link technology with enabling increased control (p.9, 74). Duxbury and Higgins' (2001) contrast Middleton's (2007) findings in which she reports that respondents felt that the increased flexibility mobile technologies enabled was beneficial (p.4).
The increased flexibility between work-life boundaries is seen as one of the positive effects of what Towers et al. (2005) terms WET. They link the level of agency people have in their jobs as being correlated to their level of satisfaction with their work conditions, and assert that WET serves to give employees control over when and where they work (p.13). As reported by Duxbury et al. (1992), and cited by Towers et al. (2005), the After Hours Telecommuting phenomenon - the occurrence of work happening outside of regular office hours - increased work flexibility by relaxing space-time constraints (p.12). Middleton (2007) cites Govindaraju and Sward (2005), who present the idea of using mobile technologies to maintain work-life balance through "time-slicing", which is using very small portions of time to do work activities (p.4). People could be productive even when they only had a few minutes to spare, "shifting" time, allowing people to move work around during the day to accommodate personal activities. Middleton (2007) expands on user's opinions of the technology,
For these users, having a device that connected them to the office and the business environment from any location was empowering, not intrusive. That the device was on all the time was not seen as an infringement on personal time, but a means of controlling the work environment to better fit personal needs, offering liberation, freedom and peace of mind (p.10).
The flexibility that the technology enables is because the user is conducting work outside the office, in new locales. Barry Brown and Kenton O'Hara (2003) write about the move of work into private spaces that mobile technologies allow, writing that " cafes, bars, restaurants all become transformed into sites for work [resulting] in 'third spaces' (like cafés) between home and work becoming legitimate places of work" (p.157). Mobile technologies used for work purposes - or WET as Towers et al. (2005) refer to them - enable flexibility because people use the technology to work outside of office hours and outside a defined physical space.
Towers et al. (2005) optimistically view this flexibility as enabling users to reduce work/life conflict by allowing them to fulfill multiple responsibilities. However, as Middleton (2007) notes while "the BlackBerry does give its users a mechanism to exert control over the management of daily communication tasks, but by virtue of its always-on, always-connected nature, it also reinforces cultures that expect people to be accessible outside normal business hours" (p.1). As is outlined here, while there is the possibility of mobile technologies reducing stress by allowing users to exert greater control over their schedule, there is a tension in the fact that these same devices increase expectations of work delivery.
But lo! Men have become the tools of their tools. ~ Thoreau, Henry D. (1854: p.64)
Earlier in this chapter the provenance of the term "crackberry" was explored, as well as some examples of behavior that warrant the use of the term. This section examines academic studies of addiction issues related to the BlackBerry. The design of the BlackBerry allows for a new level of product integration into the user's life, as its pocket-size design, long battery life, and discrete email capability bring the device into places where laptops and mobile phones would be inappropriate or inconvenient. Anecdotal stories of seemingly unreasonable BlackBerry use are cited in the media and academic studies, Middleton (2007) reports: "The first thing many users do in the morning is check their BlackBerry, and the device remains with them throughout the day, until they go to bed. Some users even admit to waking up to read email in the middle of the night" (p.6). Castells et al. (2006) describe a dependency relationship modern societies have developed with technology, depicting a user as being seriously disabled, if not "totally isolated" from his or her social network's if the technology were to fail (p.77-78). Sturken et al. (2004) takes a more pessimistic view when they write "Once experienced, a technology is imagined to have changed one's way of being in the world forever and to have created immediate kinds of dependencies" (p.3). Either way, the connection users feel with the technology is not what is being questioned. In fact, Towers et al. (2005) claim that " The item of technology which arouses the most feelings - both pro and con - is the BlackBerry" (p.16).
One might assume that the level of hyperbole in the media about levels of BlackBerry "addiction" might translate into users feeling that their unhealthy attachment to their devices was a badge of honor. However, Middleton (2007) found, BlackBerry users refute the label of "crackberry" used by the media; instead, she found that the term and claims of addiction are typically made by non-users, like family members (p.12). This chapter takes the cue from Sturken et al's (2004) claim that "the language of Internet addiction limits our perspective and deters our asking crucial questions" (p.21), and segues into a discussion about the impact these technologies are having on user's private life.
Middleton (2007) found users valued the increased connectivity but reported "spousal resentment toward the intrusions such connections created" (p.2). Towers et al. (2005) report that the family of low-users (defined as using WET for up to 20% of total non-office work time) disapprove of their use, and that the high-users (defined as using WET for more than 60% of total non-office work time) say their family don't mind (p.7, 17). Towers et al. (2005) asks if the difference is that high-users don't notice their family's disapproval as they're too absorbed. There is another possibility, and that is there may be a correlation between the high-users and high-income, and that the family of high-users are willing to accept a less present spouse/family member in the trade off for the lifestyle to which they're accustomed.
Middleton (2007) found that "While some users did acknowledge the addictive qualities of their devices, it was far more common for users to emphasize and reinforce the BlackBerry's benefits. Descriptors included liberating, freeing, tremendously useful and beneficial" (p.7). Towers et al. (2005) found that "Whatever the disadvantages of the use of WET, the vast majority of employees questioned (955) said they would keep the items of WET they currently have. Indeed, half said they would upgrade what they currently have, and one in three wanted to get a BlackBerry" (p.18).
The mobile phone is blamed for the loss of leisure and for increasing the tension between work and life, according to Castells' et al (2006, p.70). It follows that if the mobile phone were to be associated with the loss of leisure then the BlackBerry would represent an even more intensified loss of leisure. Castells et al. (2006) suggest that the constant connectivity may undermine productivity in the long run (p.81). Towers et al. (2005) link work/non-work conflict with negative effects such as absenteeism, increased turnover, poor morale, poorer mental health, and reduced productivity (p.12). In Duxbury's and Higgins' 2001 Canadian Policy Research Networks (CPRN) Discussion Paper - a survey on societal issues of work-life balance in the new millennium - a litany of costs associated with stress over work-life stress are listed, a condition they associate with increased work demands and blurred boundaries between work and family due to technology changes (p.6). Adverse effects of work-life imbalance include "substandard organizational performance, adverse family outcomes, poorer physical and mental health, and increased health care costs" (p.60). This thesis does not delve into the impacts of work-life imbalance, but argues that at the center of this issue is the business of negotiating new boundaries as times and technology change.
Academic literature supports the idea that we are in a period of negotiation; of renegotiating our relationships with technology. Castells et al. (2006) write about the ongoing "social learning process" whereby we are learning how to deal with permanent availability (p.94). Castells et al. (2006) argue that technology hasn't actually altered the family dynamic, but rather strengthens ties:
It should be emphasized that the demand for mobile communication has long existed, as family members always want to stay in touch and adjust their activities to ensure the functioning of the family unity. Thus, while the new technologies bring new means of coordination and of social support, they are appropriated in a way that strengthens existing family relationships instead of causing any revolutionary change (p.87).
On the other hand, Towers et al. (2005) talk about "fast time", where one is multitasking; they cite Eriksen as stating that "fast time is causing the distinction between work and leisure to be erased and the use of technology is one of the main reasons" (p.18). It appears that understandings amongst academics are also being negotiated as there is a divide about what they see this technology doing; whether it's an organic outgrowth of regular familial contact or if it's an insidious, organizational-driven force that's corporatizing our existences.
Sturken et al. (2004) write "The predictions of new technologies tell us more about the desires of a particular age than the potentials of the technologies themselves" (p.7). They argue that faith in technology and the contemporary emphasis on mobility and connectivity is representative of the experience of modernity and that communication technologies have been central to definitions of both modernity and postmodernity (2004, p.23, 11). As was highlighted at the beginning of this thesis, it is not that these technologies have created the modern condition, but that they have emerged from the "changing set of social imperatives and relations that constituted this condition" (Sturken, 2004: 72). In this sense, the BlackBerry can be seen as part of a larger response to the neoliberal ethos of increased efficiency and productivity. That ethos is now being extended to the personal sphere as boundaries between work and life become increasingly blurred. In response to this trend, RIM has developed the Pearl and promoted it as a device that increases productivity in one's personal as well as professional life. The result is the creation of an ideal that is the professionalized personal.
Concern about our relationship with technology has been an enduring theme throughout history, a concern that Leo Strauss links to concerns about political and social change. He claims, "One cannot be distrustful of political or social change without being distrustful of technological change" (p.175). David Nye (2006) writes about the negotiation between technology and society:
Technology is not merely a system of machines with certain functions; rather, it is an expression of a social world. Electricity, the telephone, radio, television, the computer, and the Internet are not implacable forces moving through history, but social processes that vary from one time period to another and from one culture to another. These technologies are not 'things' that came from outside society and had an 'impact'; rather, each was an internal development shaped by its social context. No technology exists in isolation. Each is an open-ended set of problems and possibilities. Each technology is an extension of human lives; someone makes it, someone owns it, some oppose it, many use it, and all interpret it. Because of the multiplicity of actors, the meanings of technology are diverse (p.47).
Sturken et al. (2004) write, "It is thus the case that technologies in their emergent stages have played a dramatic role in visions of the future and beliefs in the possibility of change Emergent technologies have been the fuel for social imagining, both of what society should be and of its potential to go farther off course from some ideal path to betterment" (p.1). As a society, we invest an enormous amount of hope for the betterment of our society in these technologies. This chapter adds yet another dimension to this thesis' examination of how the integration of the BlackBerry is influencing people's lives through the combination of media reports and academic studies.