Date of Award

1-1-1996

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

School

School of Media Studies

Faculty

Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Dr. Brian Shoesmith

Second Advisor

Professor John Hartley

Abstract

In the studies of contemporary electronic media artifacts and their effects on society, television, satellites, and computers have been extensively investigated and their various impacts well documented. With regards to telecommunication technologies, academic scholarship is somewhat less, with most comment being restricted to either historic evolution, or technical description. Exceptions to this are, Marvin's reference to the telephone in her publication, When Old Technologies Were New: Thinking About Electronic Communication in the Late Nineteenth Century (1988}, and Umble's The Amish and the telephone: resistance and reconstruction (1992). Both of these publications are used for supporting arguments in my thesis investigating the societal and cultural effects associated with the use of the mobile telephone. I have selected this subject for my thesis, as I can find no previous significant scholarship relating to this particular field, and my research will redress this imbalance. In my thesis I present a contextual overview of the mobile telephone dealing with its historical evolution and technological change, and how its convergence with other technologies is reshaping future expectations in personal electronic communication strategies. Also within the overview I look at what conditions determine the access to becoming a mobile telephone user, the service expectations of the users against what is provided by the service suppliers, and how the service suppliers' advertising strategies are driving a burgeoning market in mobile communications. The main thrust of my research is contained within arguments concerning the three major research questions. My primary focus is on the relationships between place, time, and space with the mobile telephone. In past research, Meyrowitz (1985) and Giddens (1990) and (1991) have categorically stated that place is no longer important, as electronic media have permeated the confines of encapsulated areas, and transported social relationships away from the necessity for face to face interaction. I argue that the mobile telephone has re-instated the importance of place by its capacity to intrude into any place, at the will of its user, invading personal privacy of non-users within both private and public arenas. Further I argue that place is assuming importance through its exposure to environmental degradation, with the building of transmission towers to supply the mobile telephone service. My secondary focus is on how the mobile telephone is affecting the workplace. To investigate this problem i have researched the phenomenon of telecommuting, and used the findings as a base for my investigations into the mobile office. Many of the problems relate to control, where extreme difficulties arise for authorities to manage effectively their charges when determining workers' welfare, health regulations, and supervisory duties. In the case of the employees, the freedom from direct supervision, and the flexibility to organise work times to suit their personal requirements are stated advantages. The growth of mobile office working has the potential to change the traditional values of encapsulated workplaces, and as such will require different rules and strategies to be negotiated between employers and employees to adequately safeguard each others’ interests. Prior to my final major focus, the mobile telephone and 'monopolies of knowledge' (Innis, 1949, p.5), I look at technological convergence, and change. I examine the convergence of media technologies to show that the phenomenon is not new, but historically, a driving force behind the development of new communication systems. In the section titled 'change', I document how the mobile telephone has been accepted into many different societies and sub-cultures, bringing change to their communication habits and expectations. The sections on technological convergence, and change lead my research into the final major focus, where I examine the link between the mobile telephone and the creation of new ‘monopolies of knowledge' (ibid), forming elite groups or sub-cultures which weaken the structure of community-based societies. To underpin my research focus I have used Umble (1992) to illustrate what happens when a new technology is introduced into a community-based lifestyle, creating elite groups or sub-cultures, which then challenge the basic values which support that community. Finally, in seeking information for my thesis I conducted a survey of 100 households, where I sought replies from both mobile telephone users and non-users. The response to my survey was better than most returns predicted in the literature which I read describing strategies for mail surveys. However, due to my research being original in its field, my questions were general for the thesis subject matter, and so did not supply an abundance of information which could be used within the narrowed structure of the research questions. Nevertheless the aggregated results are included in the appendices of this thesis.

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