The Wireless Web – Do Not Call!

Another meme that is on my do not call list is wireless web. The October 2005 issue of Communications of the ACM, the house organ for the Association for Computing Machinery, as an article titled Wireless Web Adoption Patterns In The U.S.. The substance of the article itself seems interesting insofar as I would be interested in adoption patterns of something that seems tied to the research I conduct, although I have to say that I am not sure what these people might be adopting. Without looking at the article — it’s in the stack of about 12 magazines and journals in the to-be-read pile that accumulates and is then tucked into a canvas bag for reading during long flights — I’m guessing it’s people using WiFi 802.11 in their homes, and maybe in public spaces like parks or McDonald’s or Starbucks.

Why do I blog this? Because I’m drawn to the ways that expressions, metaphors, and proper nouns are formed around social practices that engage technical instruments, like computers and portable devices. In this case, the use of wireless instruments to engage in the practice of digital communication (browsing, emailing, chatting, etc.) is described as adoption of wireless web practices. This particular meme is especially annoying because the web is anything but wireless (it’s chock full of many wires — visit any NOC to see) but the idea that the last link between all those wires and a user’s terminal device (their phone or laptop or whatever) makes the use of the term valuable for conveying the sort of freedom and motility (independence of movement) that helps sell this new practice through to consumers.