WEBCAST: Unseen Connections - A Natural History of the Cellphone

Watch the archive of the webcast with Smithsonian anthropologist Dr. Joshua A. Bell. In the show, Joshua discusses the life cycle of a cellphone and the social implications of the device becoming one of our most intimate possessions.

Smithsonian Science How: Unseen Connections - A Natural History of the Cellphone

Featuring Anthropologist Joshua A. Bell

Meet Dr. Joshua A. Bell, cultural anthropologist at the National Museum of Natural History. Have you ever considered that a little part of everywhere in the world is inside your phone? Joshua studies the natural history of cellphones, from cradle to grave. Take a journey with him along a supply chain, from the mines that produce cellphone minerals to the millions of discarded cellphones. Consider how cellphones have revolutionized our communications and changed our personal interactions. Reflect with Joshua about the emerging social implications of a cellphone being one of our most intimate possessions.

Watch a recording of the June 4, 2015, webcast using the video player above. The show aligns with national science standards and national social studies standards.

How do you participate in the webcast program?

1. WATCH the archive video above

2. Get TEACHING RESOURCES for the webcast

3. Design an ASSESSMENT for your students


The Natural History of the Cellphone Webcast Package supports students in meeting the following middle school NGSS Performance Expectations by offering a set of resources that integrate science concepts with science practice skills.

MS-ESS3 Earth and Human Activity

  • MS-ESS3-3 Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment
  • MS-ESS3-4 Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth's systems


The Natural History of the Cellphone package aligns with the Social Studies standards themes listed below by offering a set of resources that integrate anthropology concepts with anthropology skills. 

Production, Distribution, and Consumption

  • People have wants that often exceed the limited resources available to them

Science, Technology, and Society

  • Science, and its practical application, technology, have had a major influence on social and cultural change, and on the ways people interact with the world

Global Connections

  • Global connections have intensified and accelerated the changes faced at the local, national and international levels

People, Places, and Environments

  • The study of people, places, and environments enables us to understand the relationship between human populations and the physical world