Talk at the Philosophy of Telecommunications Convergence conference (caveat).

Background in cognitive science and linguistics.

Wants to understand how people think about and describe cell phones (and it'll be completely objective, since I don't have a cell phone). People seem to use four dimensions: function, significance, effect, and use.

Function. Cell phones are like computers; by implication, because we tend to think of computers are somewhat like human brains, this suggests a measure of cognitive anthopomorphization of cell phones as well. Integrates a handheld device with a model of the mind. Cell phones can be like other devices as well: comparisons with the Swiss Army knife are also popular. Some people also describe cell phones as friends.

Significance. Cell phones are like essentials: air, food, lifelines. They're like extensions of the body, organs or appendages. They're like languages: being without a cell phone is like not knowing the language.

Effect. Having a cell phone is like smoking: it's addictive. Cell contracts are like prison sentences.

Use. People conceptualize the value in numerous ways, but one dominant metaphor is automotive, both in terms of importance, and in terms of customization and price (you can pimp out both, there are basic and expensive versions, etc.).

Naturally, there are gender metaphors: cell phones are like hookers– the thin ones cost more; they're like men– after the first one, you know how to choose them well.

Appropriate versus inappropriate uses: driving while talking on the cell is like drinking and driving; regulation of cell phones is appropriate.

(It would be fascinating to do this study for several languages– for English, Finnish, Korean, Japanese, etc.)

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