The Land of Hypercommunication
Wireless technology keeps the Finnish in constant communication
It’s common to hear people chatter on the cell phone these days. But a large number of users are now letting their thumbs do the talking.
Text messaging, or sending 160 characters or fewer to another cell phone, has become a discreet way to contact someone and, because it takes some tech-savvy know-how, it’s a litmus test of sorts on how advanced a nation is in using wireless technology.
In Finland, home of Nokia, mobile phones have spawned a culture all their own. This Nordic country may not be the center of civilization, but it is home to cutting-edge communication. Of Finland’s 5 million people, 98 percent have cell phones and only half have a landline.
Here is what cell phone use looks like on the ground in one of the more advanced wireless cultures in the would.
Texting keeps teacher connected
Anna Maija Luomi, 41, is a hypercommunicator. As a language teacher, Luomi speaks nine languages and relies on her cell phone to keep in constant communication — not through talk, but snippets of text. She considers these text conversations a necessity in her social life and a way to keep family and friends up to date.
On a typical Saturday evening, Luomi will have sent and received 100 messages — and no phone calls. Over dinner, she easily handles 40 more. During a couple of hours, Luomi texts in five different languages.
Luomi remembers life before texting and doesn’t believe it was as good. Now she is in constant touch with friends, which has created stronger bonds.
“You say things you probably wouldn’t say if you talked one or two times a week,” she said. “I think you have better insight into the way people are thinking.”
When is it a bad time to text? There’s no bad time.
Technology is a family affair
The Nygard family-dad, mom and two daughters — lives north of Helsinki in Vanda. Hasse Nygard, the father, said he wouldn’t call his family typical when it comes to technology use. On one hand, they rely on cell phones; on the other, they are much bigger computer and high-speed Internet users.
“We aren’t following the masses,” Hasse said. “It’s not according to what our neighbors do; it’s according to what you need.”
Daughter Annina frequently does her college homework on a laptop and daughter Maria, who studies in Austria, uses one, too. Everyone has a cell phone and mother Lenita has two : one for work and one for personal use.
Hasse said he used to read e-mail on the phone but abandoned that because of the cost. Still, the phone is useful for other things. When presenting slide shows on his laptop at client offices, he uses the phone to click to the next image.
Face-to-face talk remains key
The cell phone rules the workplace in Finland with very few offices having land-lines. That’s the situation at Mr.Goodliving, a mobile-game developer in Helsinki. To communicate, game developers have several options for keeping in touch. From immediate to not-so-important, they use shouting, instant messaging, e-mail and a database program used for tracking deadlines.
For the most part, though, the managers say as much as they use technology, it is not the key to communicating. Talking in person is always best. In fact, Mr. Goodliving introduced a solution recently- a red leather couch. Snug in the back corner of a workspace, the couch is a favorite meeting place. With wireless Internet access, the employees can work there with laptops.
“We try to meet regularly face-to-face as much as possible,” said lead game designer Harri Granhom. “[That why] we can take care of many things at once.”
- litmus test : a response to one thing, which suggests the same response to a wider range of related things
- spawn : to cause something new, or many new things, to grow or start suddenly
- on the ground : on the scene at a place that is exciting, interesting or important
- snippet : a small and often interesting piece of news, information or conversation
- abandon : to stop doing an activity before you have finished it
- snug : giving feelings of warmth, comfort and protection or fitting closely