Sometimes I feel utterly depressed about the use of the latest technologies in Jordan. It seems every time I visit the people are up to date on the latest technology, having model numbers of mobiles memorized as well as the features that come with each one. I admit sometimes there are certain technologies I am completely unaware of in North America only to discover them already being used and sold in Jordan.
The main utilization of this technology seems to be the youth, who represent over half the country’s population. What drives me crazy however is how this technology is used.
Take for example the group of guys sitting around at Hardees who decide to send love notes, love songs, even pornographic images to random girls they see sitting in the vast restaurant. Bluetooth technology makes it happen. In most cases the girl rejects receiving anything and goes on eating her dinner while the guys are laughing. Sometimes she sends a message for the guy to respect himself or grow up, which gives way for another laugh. In other circumstances however, well…you can use your imagination…
In another example 2 guys are sitting on a bus while a man and his fiancÃƒÂ© are sitting behind them. The man from the back suddenly stands up and accuses the one sitting in front of him of using his mobile phone to take pictures of his fiancÃƒÂ©. A physical fight ensues where other passengers join in. It turns out he did take pictures with the phone.
There is a variety of other real life examples, these are only two that I either witnessed first hand or heard about from a friend. I’m sure anyone living in Jordan can come up with their own real life examples with no difficulty at all.
I think if mobile companies in Finland or Japan or the US ever want to conduct a study about the misuse of a technology they should come to the Arab world. There is practically no regulation of technology in the country. Since it came to Jordan the Internet has been uncensored. While a fuss was made over mobile phones with cameras in the beginning they have flooded the market. Bluetooth technology as well. I think perhaps this is the main reason there has not been a huge social backlash. Plus not many can afford the technology so they usually are ignorant of its existence.
Saudi Arabia on the other hand, where most of the population can afford all these technologies, has had some backlash with almost every practical technology introduced into the country. From the Internet to Mobile Phones to even MSN and Yahoo! Messenger.
To many this would seem a silly subject but I assure you it is very serious. Remember my second example about the guy who took pictures with his phone of someone’s fiance? Well just this past April a man shot his divorced sister after seeing a picture of her on his friend’s phone. Another honor crime in Jordan.
Upon searching early on last summer for places that could fix my broken mobile phone I waited for a store owner to finish a conversation with a potential customer. The latter was a boy of (maximum) 16 and from his accent was most likely from Kuwait or Iraq. He was obviously very wealthy as his shimmering Mercedes convertible was parked a few metres away by the curb. He was looking for a phone that had a specific camera. He wanted something that could zoom in from far away and take high quality pictures. The owner offered him several which did not meet his demands and he kept insisting. I waited patiently but the owner finally understanding said to the boy “leish? 3ashan il banat?”…”why? because of the girls?”. The boy nodded and for the next 5 minutes showed the owner what I assume are amateur voyeur pictures of girls in places like Mecca Mall and Abdoun Mall.
He did end up buying a phone. It cost him around 400 JDs ($564). More than the majority of Jordanians earn in a month. In fact at my friend’s house this summer I heard an exchange between his brother of 10 and his mother. For his birthday he wanted either a Sony Playstation 2 or a cell phone. He did not want to use the phone as one would expect but rather it was a symbol of stature in his 5th grade class where everyone who was anyone had a cell phone. When I visited my teachers at my old high school in Amman, one of my teachers who was supervising an exam was sporting a very hi-tech phone he had confiscated from a student. He told me in the mornings nowadays the floor supervisor will go around with a big basket for students to pour their phones in so they can collect them at the end of the day. On Thursdays, the dawn of the weekend, some students will pick up someone else’s phone by “accident” so they can use it for the weekend.
The Xpress company’s walkie talkie technology has been the basis of many conversations I overheard at the barbershop. You would think these two people chatting (more like yelling) out loud for all to hear would be talking about an important business deal. No, they were talking about what their wives or mothers had cooked for lunch that day and how it was prepared.
On the other hand this technology is now being used in the post-Amman attacks as a means for hotel security in Amman to co-ordinate with greater efficiently.
It is the digital catcalls which disturb me the most I suppose. The new way of snickering at a girl by sending her an mp3 of an Arabic love song or a Bryan Adams’ ballad. Is this the reason why Jordan was named the most competitive cell market in the Arab world?
The problem is that Jordan remains a conservative society for the most part where a girl’s reputation can be ruined if she is seen with a man and as I mentioned before she may even see death.
I do not advocate government intervention and regulation as I do not believe in that. In the months following the Internet’s introduction in Jordan back in the late 90’s, employers rushed to impose surveillance technology and many people were fired for looking at pornographic sites while at work. I do however advocate social revision, for the people to use technology in a good way because it is such a great resource, such an essential tool for progress in this age. I do not want to see the Internet, or Mobiles, or Cameras, or Bluetooth or any technology that is introduced to us by the outside world added to the long list of negative things we have taken from them and the good things we have left behind. A list that now includes movies, music, pop-culture, magazines, and practically anything that lacks the need for innovation on our part.
Caution needs to be taken and good sense exercised. Because technology can kill you in more ways than one.
(so can obnoxious inappropriate ring tones, radiation, driving while talking and accepting calls during a movie, but that’s another sob story)
“A cat was run over!”