Mobile Communication: Creating a New Dependence?

Posted: January 6, 2013 in Uncategorized

The beauty of this course (COMM2FOO) is that it takes a current issue and makes me examine it beyond a cursory overview. I am forced (willingly) to examine and ponder and relate to the content as it impacts my world. This session is no exception. Our readings for this module present us with an impressive array of information and detail into the world of the ubiquitous mobile phone. Goggin (2011) cites the incredible statistic that mobile phone subscribers have exceeded 6 billion (p.148)! Given that the global population is 7.1 billion, this is an astounding number in terms of the overall reach of mobile telephony. Campbell and Park (2008) present a fascinating insight into the world of current mobile communication technology, not the least of which are the new terms that they have integrated in order to adequately capture and describe the associated social phenomena. For those of us who are not digital natives (Black, 2010) and were born before the advent of the microcomputer, see the table below (Campbell & Park, 2008) .

In their article they assert that there has been a paradigm shift from the mass media world of the mid-20th century to what they deem as today’s “new personal communication society” (p. 371). They invoke Castells (2000) network society research as a framework to describe the degree of profound social change experienced through the introduction and adoption of mobile telephony. Indeed, Campbell and Park (2008) argue that mobile phones transcend communications technology and have become an icon used to express our sense of self that we share with those we include in our social networks, based far more on style, fashion and brand status than on functionality.

So how has all of this impacted me? We were asked to consider how the ‘ubiquity factor’ or the omnipresence of smartphones has impacted our worlds and our relationships. This past Christmas I received a brand-new iPhone5 (soon, I understand from tech bloggers, to be obsolete). It is slick, sexy, fast and light, a perfect representation of our “consuming culture” (Goggin, 2009, p. 231). I love it, but do I consider it an integral part of my identity or a “symbolic representation of self” (Campbell & Park, 2008, p. 373)? I can say at this point, no, at least not yet. I have referenced previously, however, that I am a member of the baby boom generation and a teacher. This matters because what Campbell and Park (2008) dub the “mobile youth culture” intersects both my personal and professional practice. It is rare that a mobile phone does not appear at either my dinner table via one of my offspring (adults) and it is never, for better or worse, that a mobile phone does not impact my classroom. Campbell (2006, as cited in Campbell & Park, 2008) asserts that in 2006, faculty and students agreed that cell phone use in classrooms is problematic. I argue that this is a distinctly outdated piece of information and anecdotally offer the assertion that students in classrooms today are unable to sit through a class to break without sneaking a peek at their phones. Class management is a different ballgame and one whose rules are yet to be solidified. The term ‘absent presence’ deeply resonated with me – see below. How do I work with this phenomenon – do I integrate it – ignore it – ban it – give up? I text – some; I have not (as yet) linked my workplace email to my phone – I do not want emails to reach me at all hours at which they are sent; do I take my iPhone to the bathroom – no – but I have thought about it! I can live without mobile phone access 24/7. Can (and should) Gen Y – who are my student base? Cisco Systems research says No.

Am I ready yet to assert that this technology has either enabled or constrained us?  There are multiple benefits and drawbacks for each perspective. Stay tuned for my next post. I will express a position that I’ll be ready to defend.

Term Definition and Context
apparatgeist The spirit of the machine – a framework that has been developed to explain consistencies in the social change as a result of cell phone adoption
absent presence Being physically present, but mentally and socially elsewhere
hyper-coordination The relational and expressive elements of mobile communication use
micro-coordination Instrumental uses of a mobile phone
monologic media One-sided media delivery e.g. television (as opposed to dialogic)
telecocooning Interpersonal communication without physical proximity to another individual

References

Black, A. (2010). Gen Y: Who they are and how they learn. Retrieved from http://www.isd300.k12.mn.us/tech_inte/soc_media/Resource%20Documents/GenY-Who_They_Are_How_They_Learn.pdf

Campbell, S., & Park, Y. (2008). Social implications of mobile telephony: The rise of personal communication society. Sociology Compass, 2/2, 311-387.

Goggin, G. (2009). Adapting the mobile phone: The iPhone and its consumption. Journal of Media and Cultural Studies, 23/22, 213-244. doi: 10.1080/10304310802710546

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