how the iPhone makes us small

So, I am engaged on a project that will be out in a few months. It is not at all what you think, but it actually is keeping in step with everything that I am doing yada yada yada. Et al. But, I will tell you that it has everything to with mobile technology.

I rant and rave and sing praises about the mobile web quite often. I quote statistics about the number of people who now access the web on their cell phone. I point towards the cleaner lines and better information on it, well not better, but they haven’t figured out how to overrun everything with ads yet.

I use it extensively myself, it is how I read news and books and blogs and poetry. I have originated two mobi sites, and as I work towards switching to that platform as an artist and activist. Each are produced on two different platforms and they have taught me a great deal about how to go about approaching this third project.

I have learned fabulous things about who is and who isn’t capable of being seen on a mobile platform.

These days the rage is all about normal websites “adapting” to mobile platforms but that is, in short, a fib. While there is all sorts of tricks and gidgets you can stick in a piece of code to redefine a normal site for a mobile platform in the end, they don’t work. Mobile sites are defined by their speed and portability. Spend anytime on a mobile phone browser and you will see what I mean. Even smartphones and iPhones with their full web capabilities require endless zooming in and out and paging down, unless of course, you are on a mobi site.

As I build the new project I had to go a looking for sites to test it on that emulated different phone models. Then, of course, I had to go a huntin’ the actual sales numbers on what types of phones people own.

Then, because a lot of the new project involves connecting information on everything from politics to arts to education, I had to go a testin’ to see whose site actually works on what mobile platforms.

It is what one does in between recovering from the flu (which I am over, knock on wood) and being snowed in.

That is when I tripped over something about the iPhone and state governments that I just found…oh so disappointing, telling and revealing.

First of all, a few statistics for the brew:

– as of the beginning of last year, there were 285 million Americans using cell phones.
– there are about 307 million Americans (2009 stats).

– 257 million of those 285 million phones are “data capable” (that means they can browse some version of the web and send messages.

– 12 million of those devices are smartphone types.

– about ½ of those are iPhones.

– that’s roughly 6.4 million iPhones in the entire continental US.

– about 6.4 million android, blackberries and such.

– and about 234 million lower end data capable phones.

In other words, less than 6% of the population has a smart type phone. Less than 3% have iPhones. Sales, by the way, for iPhones were rather disappointing last year. Sales for non-smart type phones were stellar.

So anyway.

Here I am putting my money where my mouth is with all this change BS and working on a project I feel is important, to tap into these mobile web users and give them a way of seeing more than what they would typically be exposed to. In a sense, to create a community that has room for differences and may encourage someone to go explore some one else’s land, so to speak. There is also a heavy educational component and I am not talking about high falutin’ education I am talking about a mobile resource for high schoolers to get help with math, writing and so on.

BTW, those of you stirring around while reading that, I want to interject a bit of slap-in-the-face reality to all the grant babies out there. The budget to do this is less than $60 a year. And although it sounds like I have given it away, there is a key element to the project I am not voicing.

(BTW, if you want to write for the site email me)

What I found. What gave me pause as I was testing links for the political section of the site is that very many state governments have invested in creating mobile versions of their websites….as an iPhone app.

They are virtually unreadable on a regular data enabled phone. Even with on-the-fly transition to a mobile browser, the sites are ugly, unwieldy and just plain failures.

But it went beyond that.

Pick a political party and ten to one they have not shown an interest in reaching out to the majority of their constituency. Oh, except for the Green parties. Then again, they have been behind getting cell phones with 16 hour batteries released to the poor, something the GOP despises and I don’t blame them. Phones for the poor, yes; paid for by fantastical and unnecessary budgets, no.

Pick a political party and see who has a site available in Spanish.

The only workable Spanish news mobile sites I could find were and BBC mundo.

El Nuevo Dia originates out of Mexico but covers most of the USA.

Now…me and my $60 dollars a year are about to reach more people in Rhode Island this spring (ok, add in $100 for an ad campaign) then the I-would-guess over $200,000 (not including management) iPhone app. Think about it, what is 2.9% of 1.5 million (that is the RI pop and the percent of possible iPhones here)? The announcement of the mobile site sounded good, the execution is remarkably defining.


While the people reading the site I am creating are not going to be in any way shape or form major donors to any political party, they do vote. And people vote according to who helps them. Simple as that. Not so much in promises but as to what they can see, touch, and hold as having impacted their lives.

Do you see what it takes to begin to create change?
A working knowledge of reality.
Do you see how easy it is to create a source for change?
I don’t have to present a platform; all I have to do is make ideas accessible and accessible to as many people as possible in a way easy for them to navigate.

What is your idea for your community?

Go take a look at see how someone else is beginning to wed their art with their belief in community, on a local and global basis.

Artists have ideas. Time to make those ideas have bodies too.

Artist and writers are gifted with an unusual clarity about society because, frankly, we spend so much time picking the lint out of navels – our own and history’s. We make a mistake when we limit ourselves to just complaining or pointing out the wrongs in the world. Clarity has to be wed to active context in order to “leave the wall (or page)” and become a part of life. The whole concept of empowerment has become watered down to words only. Anyone who has been through anything knows that empowerment is carrie by words, but felt through an active and tangible expression. You can say “I know what you are going through, that was so wrong.” all you want, but it is the weight of the hand placed on the arm with empathy that makes those words a source of power.

c.2011 Cassandra Tribe. All Rights Reserved


About cassandratribe

"There are few artists that can do what Cassandra Tribe does. Whether with her poetry, her videos or her blog, Cassandra examines the truths that most of us can never come close to realizing and shows it for what it is, both beautiful and frightening at the same time. She exposes our inner-most workings like the cross-section of a powerful but flawed machine, our gears and springs, nuts and bolts removed and laid out before us. She is a true artist. Her new video, Requiem for a God, is the latest example of Cassandra's willingness to tear open and examine the very things that make us human. Shooting the film entirely by herself, she also eliminates all the little excuses we come up with to keep us from ourselves and our truth. You see, even when she's not trying to be, Cassandra Tribe is a beacon of truth and humanity in this darkest of worlds." (Michael E. Quigg, The Culture Network, June 2009)
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