Do you suffer from cellphone separation anxiety? (Thinkstock)
Do you suffer from cellphone separation anxiety?

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If you feel anxious when you don't have your phone nearby, you are not alone. With some 6 billion cellphones in circulation on Earth, we depend on them for a huge range of services. We text friends, share selfies, order food, get news, watch movies, access clouds, etc.

Our cellphones not only help us manage our daily lives, but 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. The 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.

Find out more about the study of our relationships with cellphones by joining us on Thursday, June 4, 2015, for a Smithsonian Science How live webcast titled Unseen Connections: A Natural History of the Cellphone, airing at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. EDT on the Q?rius website.

Dr. Joshua A. Bell, cultural anthropologist at the National Museum of Natural History, 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?

Assigned 25 times

  • athenam-Sha
    6/12/2015 - 12:23 p.m.

    wow! I didn't know that are phone is made of tantalum and gold.
    Why would you dispose of your phone?
    I also can't believe that later in the future we might be able to repair our phones.

  • coled-fel
    8/14/2015 - 02:15 p.m.

    CTC: Cellphones lead to globalization besides talking to people by changing the times when you enter a new time zone, helping you with alarms when you need to wake up in the morning, and even tracking the weather to your location!

  • mattv-fel
    8/14/2015 - 02:16 p.m.

    Cell phones can lead to globalization by people planning real-life meets and even things like Skype (where you can view each others faces) and even see one another's locations.

  • ethanw-fel
    8/14/2015 - 02:16 p.m.

    Cell phones let you talk to someone from anywhere on the the planet.

  • kolbyd-fel
    8/14/2015 - 02:16 p.m.

    It helps us know time in one of the 24 time zones. It also helps learn about their culture.

  • hannaha-fel
    8/14/2015 - 02:17 p.m.

    Cell phones lead to globalization by texting, sharing "selfies" , ordering food and more.

  • garretta-fel
    8/14/2015 - 02:17 p.m.

    CTC: Cell phones lead to globalization beyond talking by helping us order food,share "selfies" ,watch our favorite movies,and being able to get news faster than a newspaper delivery.

  • johnj-fel
    8/14/2015 - 02:17 p.m.

    Cell phones lead to globalization beyond talking to people around the world because rather than just texting or calling someone you can also see whats going on in the world as well as see other cultures.

  • lances-fel
    8/14/2015 - 02:17 p.m.

    Cell phones lead to globalization because you can post stuff on the internet and everyone on the earth can see it

  • travisb-fel
    8/14/2015 - 02:17 p.m.

    Cell phones lead to globalization by allowing people to manage their lives and share pictures to friends.

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