Urbanization and Social Status
Throughout time human society has had manners in which people demonstrate their elevated social status. Sometimes these were rituals, but more often than not these have been things that hold a value far exceeding any utilitarian purpose. Their primary purpose is to demonstrate that a person is of, or has acheived a certain social standing. Jewlery is a particularly enduring example.
The construction of society dictates what sort of products are used for the purpose of social differentiation. As society alters, the symbols change as well. For example, in North American society, suburbanization led to people using obscenely large houses and oversized luxury automobiles to declare their social standing.
In far more of the world, urbanization is the current trend. Large houses and large automobiles are largely unworkable status symbols in large megopolises like Tokyo or Shanghai, or even densely populated European and North American cities (New York, London, San Francisco, Paris). Keeping up with electronic fashion has become an attractive alternative in many such places. People gobble up the latest mobile phone, or products like the iPod not because of a practical use, but rather because they want to stay on top of the latest toys, and thus demonstrate their social standing. This in turn pushes technology companies to very short product cycles and increasing tendancies to place form over function.
Factors which strengthen this driving force. (these are actually other driving forces, and you can link to them in the wiki!) 1. Improving mobile phone technologies (ie 3G), 2. Shrinking device size, 3. Moore's Law, 4. Increasing economic gap between rich and poor, 5. Economic development in East Asia, 6. Increasing Urban Density, 7. Lengthening commutes in North America bringing people back to the cities,
Factors which weaken this driving force. (these are actually other driving forces, and you can link to them in the wiki!) 1. Fragility of many economies in the developing world, 2. Popularity of other fashion items, 3. Rising living costs in cities, 4. Political instability in some countries,
Old: Titles and estates show social status
New: Social status is demonstrated through keeping up with the latest electronic fashions.
Since 1950s Rapid economic growth and urbanization in Japan
Since 1980s Rapid economic growth and urbanization throughout East Asia
Since 1990 American city centers gain population for first time since 1950s
1997 Asian Financial Crisis