Join us in building a living artifact, sharing the human impact of technology, and harnessing our joint power for the future of tech citizenship.
Our journey begins with the mobile phone, a pocket-sized marvel that has transformed our relationship with time, space, and each other. How did we get here?
By 2015 there were more cell phones in use than people on Earth according to United Nations International Telecommunication Union Statistics. And by 2022, there were more than 8.58 billion mobile subscriptions in use worldwide, compared to a global population of 7.95 billion.
"Selfie" became the Oxford Dictionary's word of the year. Selfies, or self-portraits taken with mobile phones, became a global phenomenon, influencing pop culture and social media.
AT&T's Bell System introduces the Mobile Telephone Service was introduced. The first MTS call was made in 1946 in St. Louis, Missouri. The equipment weighed eighty pounds, filled much of a vehicle’s trunk and drew so much power that it would cause the headlights to dim..
Describe a significant moment in your life that involved a mobile phone.Tell your story
Switching a smartphone to grayscale mode helped people reduce their screen time by 18% in one study.
Pocket computers are intimate tech.
"Doomscrolling" refers to the behavior of continuously scrolling through negative, distressing, or alarming news, even though the content may amplify feelings of fear, anxiety, or despair. The term gained traction in 2020, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pokémon Go's augmented reality mobile game brought virtual and physical worlds together, showcasing the potential of mobile gaming and location-based experiences. The game became an instant hit, with millions downloading it within days.
The "thumb tribe" or "thumb generation" refers to the tech-savvy youth who grew up using mobile phones with touchscreens, relying on their thumbs for texting and navigating screens. The term originates in Japan, 拇指族 “oyayubi-zoku.” It is also associated with consuming novels via mobile phones.
How does your mobile phone make you feel? How has that changed over time?Tell your story
Constantly staring down at your phone can wreck your posture, resulting in some serious neck and back pain.
Tech is both a tool and a target for collective action.
The tech worker labor movement rallied around these hashtags, which signal a growing awareness and activism around the ethical use of technology, especially in contexts that may harm vulnerable populations. Workers protested against contracts with the Pentagon and Immigration authorities.
The Black Lives Matter movement is a political action committee, a social movement, a slogan, and a Twitter hashtag. Organizers use smartphones to document police brutality and racial injustice, amplifying calls for reform.
The Arab Spring was a series of protests and revolutions that started in 2010 in the Arab world. It began in Tunisia and spread to countries like Egypt, Libya, and Syria. People were unhappy with their governments and used social media and mobile phones to organize demonstrations and disseminate information.
Describe a time when your mobile phone made you feel powerful.Tell your story
Simple steps to take before hitting the streets from The Markup. From downloading Signal, to locking down location tracking, hardening your hardware, and more.
Tech can simultaneously expose and protect our vulnerabilities.
Various countries, led by the U.S., express concerns about Huawei and ZTE's ties to the Chinese government, leading to bans or restrictions on the company's 5G tech and smartphones. In the US, a 'rip-and-replace' program mandates that American companies tear out telecom equipment made by the Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE.
In the wake of the Snowden revelations, encrypted messaging apps have evolved from niche tools for privacy-conscious individuals to mainstream platforms integral to everyday communication, driven by growing public awareness of digital privacy and security.
The Patriot Act, hastily passed after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, was a law in the United States. It granted the government increased surveillance powers to investigate and stop terrorism. The Act made it easier for the government to spy on phone calls, emails, and personal records without a usual court order.
Recall a time you felt vulnerable because of your mobile phone.Tell your story
Consumer Reports guides you how to pick a secure messaging app to encrypt your messages. Secure messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Signal are designed to help by using encryption to make sure only the people sending and receiving messages can read them. (All the people in the conversation need to be using the same app.)
Tech disrupts economies and changes the nature of work.
FoxConn workers iPhone manufacturing facilities in Zhengzhou held walkouts on three separate days to protest working conditions at the plant. Foxconn is a large manufacturer that makes electronics parts for brands like Apple. Protests have drawn attention to how gadgets are made and the people who make them.
Mobile apps enabled temporary, flexible jobs. The entire process, from finding a job, accepting it, completing it, to getting paid, often takes place through the mobile app.
M-Pesa is a virtual banking system that uses a SIM card to provide transaction services. The system allows users to deposit, transfer, and withdraw funds using their mobile phones, making banking accessible to millions without traditional bank accounts.
Describe a moment when you realized you couldn't live without your mobile phone.Tell your story
Collective Action School has a grassroots theory of change. We believe the people who make the tech industry run—its workers—have the power to not only transform it, but to build and imagine new technologies. They welcome all tech workers—whether you’re a project manager, warehouse worker, software engineer, or ride share driver.
Connectivity is never a given.
"Spectrum sovereignty" advocates for Indigenous peoples' rights to control wireless communication frequencies on their lands. Governments traditionally sell rights to transmit signals over specific bands of the spectrum to different technologies like radio, wifi, etc.
Authorities for Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) blocked wireless signals in San Francisco stations to prevent protests. Demonstrators had planned to stop trains from running in response to a fatal shooting. BART officials admitted to switching off the transit system's base stations, disabling the underground wireless network.
Did you know the first mobile phone call was a troll? In 1973, Martin Cooper, an engineer at Motorola, used his prototype of the DynaTAC 8000x (the "brick phone") to call his rival engineer at Bell Labs to tell him he was making the first mobile phone call.
Share a significant time when you lost signal or your phone.Tell your story
Digital inequity is the product of colonization. Urge policymakers to look at consultation processes, comment periods, and policy development through a decolonized lens, taking into consideration the capacity, cultural practices, voices, and perspectives of Indigenous peoples, from start to finish.
The design of tech shapes and influences our use, and vice versa.
The "dumbphone" or feature phone is a simpler form of mobile phone, and it's becoming popular again. A return to early 2000s technology, unlike smartphones, dumbphones mainly support calls and texts.
RIM unveiled the BlackBerry 5810 as its first smartphone. It was marketed as a “breakthrough in wireless convergence that delivers email, phone, SMS, browser, and organizer features in a single, sleek handheld that is 'Always On, Always Connected®'."
Fired from IBM after disclosing her gender transition, Lynn Conway went on to help democratize chip design at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center in the “VLSI revolution.” Very Large-Scale Integration (VLSI) enabled the creation of smaller, more powerful, and energy-efficient chips; enabling smaller modern phones and gadgets.
What was the first phone you loved and why?Tell your story
Looking to ditch your smartphone? Jose Briones helps you find the right feature phone for your lifestyle.
Human transformation of metals and sand has environmental impacts.
The exploitation of cobalt for mobile phone batteries in the Congo has been associated with conflict and human rights abuses, highlighting the ethical concerns in the mobile industry's supply chain.
Apple acknowledges that they slow down older iPhones through software updates. This acknowledgment reignites discussions about planned obsolescence, product longevity, and their contributions to e-waste.
Advocates for the right to repair mobile devices are pushing for legislation that would allow consumers to repair their devices independently. The Right to Repair movement challenges the standard industry practice of making phones difficult to fix, which often forces users to buy new devices
How has your phone changed your relationship to your environment?Tell your story
For every million cell phones we recycle, 35 thousand pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered. Donate or recycle responsibly.