Teaching and Learning Guide for: Social Implications of Mobile Telephony: The Rise of Personal Communication Society
Article first published online: 13 OCT 2008
© 2008 The Authors. Journal Compilation © 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd
Volume 2, Issue 6, pages 2030–2040, November 2008
How to Cite
Campbell, S. W. and Park, Y. J. (2008), Teaching and Learning Guide for: Social Implications of Mobile Telephony: The Rise of Personal Communication Society. Sociology Compass, 2: 2030–2040. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-9020.2008.00153.x
- Issue published online: 24 NOV 2008
- Article first published online: 13 OCT 2008
- Cited By
The media landscape has changed dramatically in recent decades, from one predominated by traditional mass communication formats to today's more personalized communications environment. Mobile telephony plays a central role in this transition, with adoption rates that surpass even those of the Internet. This article attempts to situate the role of mobile communication technology in the changing media environment by examining key areas of social change associated with its widespread diffusion and use. These areas include symbolic meaning of technology, new forms of coordination and social networking, personalization of public spaces, and the mobile youth culture. Drawing from these areas of change, we advance the argument that mobile telephony is iconic of a larger socio-technological shift toward a new ‘personal communication society.’
Rheingold, Howard 2002. Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution. Cambridge, MA: Basic Books.
From Tokyo to Helsinki, Manhattan to Manila, Howard Rheingold takes us on a journey around the world for a preview of the next techno-cultural shift – a shift he predicts will be as dramatic as the widespread adoption of the PC in the 1980s and the Internet in the 1990s. The coming wave, says Rheingold, is the result of super-efficient mobile communications – cellular phones, personal digital assistants, and wireless-paging and Internet-access devices that will allow us to connect with anyone, anywhere, anytime. From the amusing (‘Lovegetty’ devices in Japan that light up when a person with the right date-potential characteristics appears in the vicinity) to the extraordinary (the overthrow of a repressive regime in the Philippines by political activists who mobilized by forwarding text messages via cell phones), Rheingold gives examples of the fundamentally new ways in which people are already engaging in group or collective action. He also considers the dark side of this phenomenon, such as the coordination of terrorist cells, threats to privacy, and the ability to incite violent behavior. Applying insights from sociology, artificial intelligence, engineering, and anthropology, Rheingold offers a penetrating perspective on the brave new convergence of pop culture, cutting-edge technology, and social activism. At the same time, he reminds us that, as with other technological revolutions, the real impact of mobile communications will come not from the technology itself but from how people use it, resist it, adapt to it, and ultimately use it to transform themselves, their communities, and their institutions.
Katz, James E. and Mark A. Aakhus (eds.) 2002. Perpetual Contact: Mobile Communication, Private Talk, Public Performance. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
This edited volume contains a landmark collection of chapters from researchers all over the world. The book offers a multi-national perspective on some of the key themes that were identified at the outset of the emergent new field of mobile communication studies, ranging from the private sphere of interpersonal relations to the public performance of social groups and structures. In their conclusion, the editors advance the theoretical orientation of Apparatgeist (translation: ‘spirit of the machine’) to explain cross-cultural consistencies in how people conceptualize and use personal communication technologies such as the mobile phone.
Ling, Rich 2004. The Mobile Connection: The Cell Phone's Impact on Society. San Francisco, CA: Morgan Kaufmann.
This book, based on worldwide research involving tens of thousands of interviews and contextual observations, looks into the impact of the mobile communication on our daily lives. Areas of impact include accessibility, safety and security, coordination of social and business activities, use of public places, and the social emancipation of youth.
Ito, Mizuko, Daisuke Okabe, and Misa Matsuda (eds.) 2005. Personal, Portable, Pedestrian: Mobile Phones in Japanese Life. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
This edited volume explores how Japan's enthusiastic engagement with mobile technology has become part of its trendsetting popular culture. The chapters document the emergence, incorporation, and domestication of mobile communications in a wide range of social practices and institutions. The book first considers the social, cultural, and historical context of keitai (i.e., mobile phone) development in Japan, including its beginnings in youth pager use in the early 1990s. It then discusses the virtually seamless integration of keitai use into everyday life, contrasting it to the more escapist character of Internet use on the PC. Other essays suggest that the use of mobile communication reinforces ties between close friends and family, producing ‘tele-cocooning’ by tight-knit social groups. The book also discusses mobile phone manners and examines keitai use by copier technicians, multitasking housewives, and school children.
Castells, Manuel, Mireia Fernandez-Ardevol, Jack Linchuan Qiu and Araba Sey 2007. Mobile Communication and Society: A Global Perspective. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
This book looks at how the possibility of multimodal communication from anywhere to anywhere at any time affects everyday life at home, at work, and at school, and raises broader concerns about politics and culture both global and local. Drawing on data gathered from around the world, the authors explore who has access to wireless technology, and why, and analyze the patterns of social differentiation seen in unequal access. They explore the social effects of wireless communication – what it means for family life, for example, when everyone is constantly in touch, or for the idea of an office when workers can work anywhere. The authors consider the rise of a mobile youth culture based on peer-to-peer networks, with its own language of texting, and its own values. They examine the phenomenon of flash mobs, and the possible political implications. And they look at the relationship between communication and development and the possibility that developing countries could ‘leapfrog’ directly to wireless and satellite technology. Drawing from a global body of research, the book helps answer the key questions about our transformation into a ‘mobile network society’.
Ling, Rich 2008. New Tech, New Ties: How Mobile Communication Reshapes Social Cohesion. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
In New Tech, New Ties, Rich Ling examines how the mobile telephone affects both mobile-mediated and face to face interactions. Ling finds that through the use of various social rituals the mobile telephone strengthens social ties within the circle of friends and family – sometimes at the expense of interaction with those who are physically present – and creates what he calls ‘bounded solidarity’. Ling argues that mobile communication helps to engender and develop social cohesion within the family and the peer group. Drawing on the work of Emile Durkheim, Erving Goffman, and Randall Collins, Ling shows that ritual interaction is a catalyst for the development of social bonding. From this perspective, he examines how mobile communication affects face-to-face ritual situations and how ritual is used in interaction mediated by mobile communication. He looks at the evidence, including interviews and observations from around the world, which documents the effect of mobile communication on social bonding and also examines some of the other possibly problematic issues raised by tighter social cohesion in small groups.
Katz, James E. (ed.) 2008. Handbook of Mobile Communication Studies. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
This edited volume offers a comprehensive view of the cultural, family, and interpersonal consequences of mobile communication across the globe. Leading scholars analyze the effect of mobile communication on all parts of life, from the relationship between literacy and the textual features of mobile phones to the use of ringtones as a form of social exchange, from the ‘aspirational consumption’ of middle class families in India to the belief in parts of Africa and Asia that mobile phones can communicate with the dead. The contributors explore the ways mobile communication profoundly affects the tempo, structure, and process of daily life around the world. They discuss the impact of mobile communication on social networks, other communication strategies, traditional forms of social organization, and political activities. They consider how quickly miraculous technologies come to seem ordinary and even necessary – and how ordinary technology comes to seem mysterious and even miraculous. The chapters cut across social issues and geographical regions; they highlight use by the elite and the masses, utilitarian and expressive functions, and political and operational consequences. Taken together, the chapters demonstrate how mobile communication has affected the quality of life in both exotic and humdrum settings, and how it increasingly occupies center stage in people's lives around the world.
Ling, Rich and Scott W. Campbell (eds.) Forthcoming in Fall/Winter 2008. The Reconstruction of Space and Time: Mobile Communication Practices. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.
Mobile communication enables us to call specific individuals, not general places. This advancement had changed, and continues to change, human interaction. It also alters the ways people experience both space and time. This edited volume explores these changes through a collection of studies from some of the top mobile communication researchers from around the world. Collectively, the contributions highlight nuanced changes in coordination and cohesion across space and time, the ways people manage mobile communication and mobility in new spatio-temporal realms, and how individuals relate to their co-present surroundings while using mobile communication technology.
Resource Center for Mobile Communication Studies
The Center for Mobile Communication Studies is the world's first academic unit to focus solely on social aspects of mobile communication. Established in June 2004 at Rutgers University's School of Communication, Information and Library Studies, the Center has become an international focal point for research, teaching, and service on the social, psychological, and organizational consequences of the burgeoning mobile communication revolution.
International Journal of Mobile Communication Studies
The International Journal of Mobile Communication (IJMC), a fully refereed journal, publishes articles that present current practice and theory of mobile communications, mobile technology, and mobile commerce applications. The objectives of the IJMC are to develop, promote, and coordinate the development and practice of mobile communications. The IJMC aims to help professionals working in the field, academic educators, and policy makers to contribute, to disseminate knowledge, and to learn from each other's work. The international dimension is emphasised in order to overcome cultural and national barriers and to meet the needs of accelerating technological change and changes in the global economy. IJMC is an outstanding outlet that can shape a significant body of research in the field of mobile communications and in which results can be shared across institutions, governments, researchers, and students, and also industry.
Wi: The Journal of Mobile Media
Wi publishes the latest in Canadian mobilities research, encompassing disciplines such as design, engineering, computer science, communications, and media studies.
MobileActive.org is an all-volunteer community of people and organizations using mobile phones for social impact. They are committed to increasing the effectiveness of NGOs around the world who recognize that the 3.5 billion mobile phones provide unprecedented opportunities for organizing, communications, and service and information delivery. They work together to create the resources NGOs need to effectively use mobile phones in their work: locally relevant content and services, support and learning opportunities, and networks that help MobileActives connect to each other. With these things on hand, tens of thousands of NGOs will be in a better position to enrich and serve their communities. The MobileActive.org community includes grassroots activists, NGO staff, intermediary organizations, content and service providers, and organizations who fund mobile technology projects.
Mobile Society is an academic research website focusing on social aspects of the mobile phone. The site includes links and information about news, events, publications, and other related sites pertaining to the social consequences of mobile communication.
SmartMobs: The Next Social Revolution
A Website and Weblog about topics and issues discussed in the book ‘Smart Mobs’ by Howard Rheingold.
Select sample syllabus topics and readings for course on ‘the social consequences of mobile communication’
History and adoption of the mobile phone
- • Ling, Rich. 2004. ‘The Mobile Connection’ Chapter 1: Introduction.
- • Castells et al. 2007. ‘Mobile Communication and Society’ Chapter 1: The Diffusion of Wireless Communication in the World.
Theoretical perspectives on the relationship between technology and society: Part 1, social and technological determinism
- • Ling, Rich. 2004. ‘The Mobile Connection’ Chapter 2: Making Sense of Mobile Telephone Adoption.
- • Campbell, Scott W. and Tracy C. Russo 2003. The Social Construction of Mobile Telephony. Communication Monographs 70: 317–34.
Theoretical perspectives on the relationship between technology and society: Part 2, the ‘network’ perspective
- • Castells, Manuel. 2000. ‘The Rise of Network Society’ Opening Chapter: The Network is the Message.
- • Castells et al. 2007. ‘Mobile Communication and Society’ Chapter 5: The Space of Flows, Timeless Time, and Mobile Networks.
Mobile communication in everyday life: Part 1, safety and security
- • Ling, Rich. 2004. ‘The Mobile Connection’ Chapter 3: Safety and Security.
Mobile communication in everyday life: Part 2: new forms of coordination
- • Ling, Rich. 2004. ‘The Mobile Connection’ Chapter 4: The Coordination of Everyday Life.
Mobile communication in everyday life: Part 3: new social networking practices
- • Ling, Rich and Birgitte Yttri. 2002. ‘Hyper-coordination via Mobile Phones in Norway’ in Katz & Aakhus (eds.) Perpetual Contact.
- • Licoppe, Christian. 2003. ‘Two Modes of Maintaining Interpersonal Relations through Telephone: From the Domestic to the Mobile Phone’ in J. Katz (ed.) Machines that Become Us.
- • Campbell, Scott. W. and Michael Kelley. 2006. Mobile phone use in AA networks: An exploratory study. Journal of Applied Communication Research 34: 191–208.
Apparatgeist: ‘Spirit of the machine’ and the fashion and function of the mobile phone
- • Katz, James E. and Mark Aakhus. 2002. ‘Conclusion: Making meaning of mobiles – a theory of Apparatgeist’ in Katz & Aakhus (eds.) Perpetual Contact.
- • Campbell, Scott W. 2008. ‘Mobile Technology and the Body: Apparatgeist, Fashion and Function’ in J. Katz (eds.) Handbook of Mobile Communication.
SMS and the language of wireless communication
- • Ling, Rich. 2004. ‘The Mobile Connection’ Chapter 7: Texting and the Growth of Asynchronous Discourse.
- • Castells et al. 2007. ‘Mobile Communication and Society, Chapter 6: The Language of Wireless Communication.
Use of mobile technology in public settings
- • Ling, Rich. 2004. ‘The Mobile Connection’ Chapter 6: The Intrusive Nature of Mobile Technology.
- • Okabe, Daisuke and Ito, Mizuko. 2005. ‘Keitai in public transportation’ in Ito, Okabe, & Matsuda (eds.) Personal, Portable, Pedestrian.
- • Ito, Mizuko, Daisuke Okabe and Ken Anderson 2008. ‘Portable Objects in Three Global Cities: The Personalization of Urban Places’ in Ling & Campbell (eds.) Reconstruction of Space and Time: Mobile Communication Practices.
- • Campbell, Scott W. 2006. Perceptions of mobile phones in college classrooms: Ringing, cheating, and classroom policies. Communication Education 55: 280–294.
M 10/22 Use of the technology around co-present others and the challenge of ‘absent presence’
- • Cumiskey, Kathleen. 2007. ‘Hidden meanings: Understanding the social-psychological impact of mobile phone use through storytelling’ in Goggin & Hjorth (eds.) Mobile Media Proceedings.
- • Gergen, Kenneth. 2002. ‘The challenge of absent presence’ in Katz & Aakhus (eds.) Perpetual Contact.
The mobile youth culture
- • Ling, Rich. 2004. ‘The Mobile Connection’ Chapter 5: The Mobile Telephone and Teens.
- • Castells et al. 2007. ‘Mobile Communication and Society’ Chapter 4: The Mobile Youth Culture.
Mobile communication in the socio-political sphere
- • Castells et al. 2007. ‘Mobile Communication and Society Chapter 7: The Mobile Civil Society: Social Movements, Political Power, and Communication Networks.
- • Rheingold, Howard. 2002. ‘Smart Mobs’ Chapter 7: Smart Mobs – The Power of the Mobile Many.
- • Campbell, Scott W. and Nojin Kwak. 2008, May. Mobile communication and the public sphere: Linking patterns of use to civic and political engagement. Paper presented at the ICA pre-conference, The Global and Globalizing Dimensions of Mobile Communication: Developing or Developed?, Montreal.
W 11/7 Mobile communication in the developing world
- • Castells et al. 2007. ‘Mobile Communication and Society’ Chapter 8: Wireless Communication and Global Development: New Issues, New Strategies.
- • Donner, Jonathan. 2008. Research approaches to mobile use in the developing world: A review of the literature. The Information Society 24: 140–159.
- • Donner, Jonathan. 2008. The rules of beeping: Exchanging messages via intentional ‘missed calls’ on mobile phones. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13(1). Available: http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol13/issue1/donner.html.
M 11/12 Mobile communication and work
- • Andriessen, Erick and Mattai Vartianen. 2006. Emerging Mobile Virtual Work in Andriessen & Vartianen (eds.) Mobile Virtual Work: A New Paradigm?
- • Perry, Mark and Jackie Brodie. 2006. Virtually Connected, Practically Mobile in Andriessen & Vartianen (eds.) Mobile Virtual Work: A New Paradigm?
- • Chesley, Noelle. 2005. Blurring boundaries? Linking technology use, spillover, individual distress, and family satisfaction. Journal of Marriage and Family 67: 1237–1248.
- – To what extent does mobile communication lead to changes in family dynamics? On the one hand, mobile communication empowers youth to carry out their social relations ‘under the radar’ of parental supervision. In the ‘old days’, kids had to share a domestic landline phone and had less privacy, or had to shut themselves up in their room when on the phone to get privacy. The mobile phone is anytime/anywhere and it a personal object (not shared), so users have much more control over their private relations. Text messaging is an especially effective way of having private communication. Because of all this, young people have more autonomy to live out their social lives as they see fit. On the other hand, the mobile phone also gives parents more control by being able to better keep tabs on their kids and their kids’ whereabouts. In some respects, it can actually be considered as an ‘umbilical cord’ keeping kids accountable to their parents. This is an interesting dichotomy for discussion.
- – To what extent and how does the mobile phone support ‘perpetual contact’ among social ties? There seems to be a continual flow of communication now, which some refer to as ‘perpetual contact’. Follow-up questions could be: how is this a good thing? Are there negative aspects of perpetual contact?
- – How is the mobile phone used for boundary management (i.e., demarcating in-group members from out-group members)? This can be seen in names kept in contact lists, who people text with, whose calls they screen, and even the style or brand of a phone ... some groups of friends get the same types of phones.
- – What are the effects of taking/placing a phone call when interacting with physically co-present others? What are norms for doing this? How can people mitigate the intrusion?
- – On a related note to the questions above ... to what extent does the mobile phone lead to ‘absent presence?’ The notion of absent presence refers to being physically present, but socially absent. To what extent is this problematic?
- – To what extent might mobile communication lead to ‘tele-cocooning?’ Some are concerned that people are getting so wrapped up in their tight little social networks now, that they are less engaged with others who are weak social ties. If this is true, then it begs the question about whether there are benefits to having weak social ties. Most feel there are benefits, like being exposed to a diversity of perspectives and ideas.
- – With regard to the changing media landscape, where else do we see increased ‘personalization’ in our uses of traditional mass media? In this sense, ‘personalization’ can refer to personalized content, interactivity, control, etc.
Research project idea (note this approach can be taken with any of the topics recommended above)
Description of the paper
Mobile communication technology has become a common artifact in public settings, offering a means for social connection for its users and unsolicited melodies, chirps, and half conversations for co-present others. Because social norms for behavior around others often conflict with those for phone conversations, mobile communication can present as many challenges as it does opportunities for maintaining social order. In class, we will discuss numerous perspectives on this topic, such as absent presence, symbolic fences, front stage-back-stage dynamics, and cocooning through mobile media. The purpose of this paper is to conduct an original investigation of the use of mobile communication technology around others. Each student will select a particular aspect of this phenomenon to explore in depth by collecting data first-hand, analyzing those data, and drawing conclusions to shed new light on this topic. Students may choose to examine mobile communication in a particular setting, compare mobile communication in different social contexts or across different users, examine or compare the use of certain types of mobile technologies, observe reactions of and effects on non-users of the technology, or select some other such ‘angle’ for the project that sheds light on this topic.
Your paper should contain the following sections: (1) An introduction that justifies the importance of your topic and provides a clear explanation of the purpose of the paper, (2) a review of relevant literature/theory/key concepts to frame your particular project followed by specific research questions, (3) a method section explaining how you collected data (observation, interviews, questionnaires, and/or otherwise) and how you analyzed your data, and (4) a discussion section that develops conclusions based on the findings. Each paper should have at least 10 scholarly citations, of which at least half should come from readings other than those assigned for class. Use American Psychological Association (5th edition) to format citations and reference list. Papers should be about 10 pages in length, double-spaced. In addition to meeting these guidelines, the writing should be clearly organized within each section and (of course) well-written. Students will present their papers in class at the end of the semester.