Jason Noble

Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - ECU Access Only


Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Communications)


Faculty of Education and Arts

First Supervisor

Lelia Green


The Short Message Service (SMS texting) is a significant mobile application for young adults, and is one component of a repertoire of asynchronous communication apps used for facilitating the forming and maintenance of friendships via on and offline social networking. Moreover, texting serves as a 24/7 conduit for social and emotional communication and is specifically useful in dark, noisy and/or crowded social settings, both within a co-located and co-present interaction context. It should be noted that these interaction dynamics are in relation to sender and receiver of a message being in the same time and place. The participation-observation ethnographic research project presented here addresses such chaotic dynamics; representative of the twenty-four hour economy and a major driver of young adults’ leisure lifestyles and culture. These locales and cliques constitute ‘small worlds’ of social interconnectedness on a local scale within the context of everyday interactions. Such settings and encounters are often negotiated via texting which has been shown to have high significance in the development of interpersonal connection during fun/risky events. Further, mobile mediation allows a level of security in the presence of uncertainty, anxiety and experimentation with the digital connectivity engendering a sense of safety at a distance. Time-sensitive information updates via texting within parties, clubs, pubs and music festivals play a significant role for young adults’ negotiation of space, place, time and relationships. Specifically, texting can serve a range of functions; from SOS distress signals via location-based information, to the discreet dissemination of gossip camouflaged within apparently benign mobile use. The use of texts to engage friends’ attention to share a moment or event has the potential to build the individual and collective experiencing of an entertainment venue. Interplay between face-to-face (F2F) and mediated screen conversation has the capacity to alter co-present dynamics in relation to an individual or group, where text communication can be in total opposition to the verbal and non-verbal cues being displayed in the same room or at the same table. This complicating of the communication ecology is particularly in evidence in social environments that are synonymous with loud background noise where vocal cues are compromised and texting is ubiquitous. This thesis argues that text communication can be used to introduce a layer of order into chaotic settings; but also to disrupt existing social norms and expectations through the introduction of unpredictable messages and dynamics. In these ways mobile phones and co-present texting practices are an important element in young adults’ negotiation of the twenty-four hour economy.