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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/24824

Title: A World More Intimate: Exploring the Role of Mobile Phones in Maintaining and Extending Social Networks
Authors: McEwen, Rhonda N.
Advisor: Caidi, Nadia
Department: Information Studies
Keywords: mobile phones
cell phones
social networks
constitutive entanglement
Issue Date: 31-Aug-2010
Abstract: While there are exemplary studies on the relationships between social networks and media such as television and the Internet, less is known about the social network consequences of mobile phone use during life-stage transitions. This study investigates the roles that mobile phones play in supporting the relationships of young people as they transition to and through their first-year of university in Toronto, Canada. Focussing on information practices during a transition that tests the resilience of support networks, this study queried the extent to which mobile phones play a role in keeping relationships intact, enabling students to maintain a sense of social cohesion and belonging. Data were collected from November 2007 to September 2008 through a longitudinal research design. Socio-technical concepts and network analysis techniques were applied to analyze the ways in which mobile communication is embedded in the everyday social life of young people aged 17-34. Set within the culturally-specific context of urban Canada, the data provided substantial evidence that mobile phones foster social cohesion within intimate relations but provide a more tenuous platform from which to nurture new relationships. First-year undergraduates have integrated the mobile phone into the way they engage with their social networks to a considerable degree, with commuter students experiencing additional tensions in negotiating relationships from home and on-campus. Findings showed that mobile phones were the devices of choice to mitigate feelings of loneliness, with deleterious consequences for the development of new relationships. Furthermore, the mobile phone was a key contributor to a rising sense of empowerment and autonomy for young adults as they negotiated identity transformations during their rite of passage into adulthood. Issues of trust and reciprocity in forming new relationships were mediated through a continuum of social media of which the mobile phone was the most intimate. Evidence of continuous access to social networks has broader implications for how mechanisms for coping with being alone and disconnection are acquired in this generation. Finally, observations of ritualistic interaction practices involving mobile phones may be theorized as small-scale evidence of larger societal shifts from collective constructs of community to that of networked individuals.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/24824
Appears in Collections:Doctoral
Information Program - Doctoral theses

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