new tech new ties

By Rich Ling, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press., 224 pages, $13.39

Rich Ling is the author of New Tech, New Ties: How Mobile Communication Is Reshaping Social Cohesion (MIT Press, 2008) which won the 2009 Goffman Award from the Media Ecology Association. He currently is the Shaw Foundation Professor of Media Technology at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. His background is deeply rooted in mobile communication and its social impact.

The overall theme of this book is about how the mobile phone reinforces social bonds among family and friends. In addition, it highlights how mobile communication has reshaped its users, platforms and outlook. This book pointed out that mobile communication technology stands out from other forms of communication because “mobile communication has altered the way social situations develop and the way that they are carried off” (Ling, 2008, pg. 3). Mobile communication makes each person we know accessible to us and that ensures our connection to them. Mobile phone technology was available in the 1940’s but “the mobile phone came into widespread use and acceptance in the mid 1990’s. And in the period 1990-2005, the mobile phone achieved iconic status” (Ling, 2008, pg. 12). As the explosion of mobile communication usage, the interest of how it affects society grew as well. In this line of communication, Ling also discusses the ritual interaction and social cohesion in reference to mobile technology in which how society uses mobile technology varies. For example Adults use mobile technology to plan their day, interact with loved ones, order groceries, and engage with colleagues. Teens use their mobile phones to connect with friends, text their parents, and set up dates. Young Adults may use their mobile devices to interact with a significant other or search for jobs. However, the common theme is that society uses mobile technology to communicate with others in some form in voice interaction at the persons locations which could be anywhere verses “traditional land-line telephony, we call to specific places” (Ling, 2008, pg. 3).

Ling’s foundation in the study of mobile technology demonstrates to us that it is important to navigate current trends as well to predict future trends in mobile communication. In New Tech, New Ties he explores how mobile technology impacts two types of interactions, those that are present and not present. The balance between the mediated interaction, social, and the individual is discussed from the perspective of social interaction and ritual. Ling demonstrates that these two types of interactions are driven by “ritual and our sense of the collective are being affected by the use of mediated interaction, especially mobile communication” (Ling, 2008, pg. 37). Mobile technology makes it easier to stay in touch with other users which should make consumers aware of those you cannot easily reach. This can be linked to your interpersonal ritual which relates to your social interaction in our daily lives. Mobile technology is such an intricate part of our lives and “mobile phones, come into the consciousness of the individual, are evaluated, are purchased, and come into use” (Ling, 2008, pg. 63). Regardless of your view of mobile communication is a ritual or routine, there is a boundary area between to the two and it is rooted in interaction(s). This interaction can either place a person in the communicator’s presence or not. This happens by the “degree that mobile communication is akin to small-scale interaction of everyday life – indeed, to the degree that it is becoming integral in mundane life – it provides insight on how mobile communication contributes to social cohesion” (Ling, 2008, pg. 92).

The benefit of New Tech, New Ties: How Mobile Communication Is Reshaping Social Cohesion by Rich Ling (MIT Press, 2008) is to broaden the perspective of those in the field of mobile communications. In addition, industries that rely on mobile technology to further enhance their products for their consumers would gain powerful insight on the connection for society to mobile technologies. The overall benefit from Ling’s rationale is that “personal communication technologies work as social glue that holds people together (Ling, 2008, pg. 157). It most certainly expanded my thoughts on how to view mobile usage of radio station listeners in that “the mobile phone is mainly used to keep in touch with close friends and family member” (Ling, 2008, pg. 155).

My interest in this book is about how to interpret Ling’s discoveries of social cohesion and how to apply this information to my real world setting in the field of broadcast radio. I have always been fascinated by the use of mobile technology and how it directs the course of our lives. My personal connection to telephone communication is that I did not have a land-line telephone until I was 16 years old because both of my parents were deaf. That led me to be quite progressive in obtaining a mobile device when they first became available. Therefore, I was drawn to Ling points out how routine with the mobile telephone does strengthen connections with friends and family. My professional passion is radio and I was drawn to Ling’s concepts because he delved into the discovery of how mobile technology can strengthen ties which I have applied to the listeners of a radio station. Ling believes that everyday use of mobile technology along with the repetitive and ritualistic behaviors lead to the maintenance of social ties.

In conclusion, I would recommend New Tech, New Ties: How Mobile Communication Is Reshaping Social Cohesion by Rich Ling both personally and professionally. I believe you must be mindful of your personal interactions with others and be cognizant of those who have frequent presence within your mobile communication and those who do not. Ling addresses the ease of mobile communication and technology for society. However, there are those that do not keep in the cycle of the technology advancements. I would recommend that you keep aware of those people so you can still be present in their lives. Professionally, I believe it is very important to stay on trend of progression of mobile technology because if your business deals with any part of the mobile communication and technology you must understand that it advances rapidly. In knowing this information you can either stay in line with technology has it advances or be ahead of it. Therefore, your business can stay in tune with consumers and fulfill their desires.


Ling, R. (2008). New Tech, New Ties: How Mobile Communication Is Reshaping Social Cohesion. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press