Do you suffer from cellphone separation anxiety?
If you feel anxious when you don't have your phone nearby, you are not alone. About 6 billion cellphones are in circulation on Earth. We depend on them for a huge range of services. We text friends. We share selfies. We order food. We get news. We watch movies and we access clouds and more.
Our cellphones do not only help us manage our daily lives. They also connect us to people around the world. Cellphones do it in ways, and at speeds, that didn't used to be possible. While a very personal possession, a cellphone also extends us beyond ourselves.
Cultural anthropologists are studying how cellphones both come from and lead to globalization.
The global network of supply chains for cellphones rests on the backs of miners. Many live in Bolivia, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa. Those miners are key, as well as factory workers in China and Brazil. The products are sealed and concealed under the sleek glass and metal cases designed in places such as Europe, South Korea and the United States.
When you dispose of a cellphone, you throw away costly minerals. They include rare earths, tantalum and gold.
Some anthropologists are analyzing how, why and when cellphones are repaired rather than tossed out. The Smithsonian's Joshua A. Bell envisions a future of users-as-hackers. We would open up and repair our own phones.
You can find out more about the study of our relationships with cellphones. Join us on Thursday, June 4, 2015, for a Smithsonian Science How live webcast. It's titled Unseen Connections: A Natural History of the Cellphone. It airs at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. EDT on the Q?rius website.
Dr. Joshua A. Bell is cultural anthropologist at the National Museum of Natural History. He will appear live to discuss and answer questions. Get teaching resources to support your webcast experience.
Critical thinking challenge: How do cell phones lead to globalization beyond talking to people around the world?