The Value of Mobile Communication for Social Belonging: Mobile Apps and the Impact on Social Interaction

The Value of Mobile Communication for Social Belonging: Mobile Apps and the Impact on Social Interaction

Sara Henriques (Lusofona University, Lisbon, Portugal) and Manuel Jose Damasio (Lusofona, University, Lisbon, Portugal)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/IJHCR.2016040104
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Abstract

This paper deals with the relevance of mobile media in shaping online activities and patterns of interaction and its relation with industrial stakeholders and individual users' perspectives on the technology. The concepts of mediation and mediatization, as well as the processes of belonging and social cohesion are discussed and operationalized in the context of an empirical study. Data from mobile internet adoption and use will be discussed in the light of the above mentioned theoretical approaches. Two complementary views are approached –mobile internet stakeholders' and users'– encouraging a discussion on the interdependencies between individual adoption patterns and market derived determinants in a socio-cultural environment where technology adoption and diffusion happens. Results will provide contributions for the understanding of this type of technology adoption processes and the increasing importance of mobility in cultural and social practices, promoting an exciting discussion on the centrality of media nowadays and the current transformation processes society is undergoing.
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Introduction

The consequences of technological mediation on human social forms of interaction, has always been one of the concerns for researchers within the field of communication and human-computer interaction (HCI). In this paper, we will discuss the different ways contemporary mobile content, services and applications have the potential to shape specific individual and collective experiences that have consequences for different aspects and forms of social cohesion, involvement and belonging. These consequences mainly result from contemporary social practices related with mobility and mobile communication (mobile internet services) use in community life.

The convergence between the internet and mobile phones has resulted in a new type of devices, the so-called smartphones. Using such devices to access the internet is part of what came to be named m-internet. Departing from the awareness that, nowadays, media influence is spread to all spheres of modern life, our goal is to examine these processes of transformation on the field of mobile communication, services and trends, namely m-internet. Thereby, this paper intends to approach and discuss how the actual mediatized environment grounded on the power and added-value of mobile features, namely services offered via the use of mobile internet (m-internet) influence the social sphere and have an impact on the social transformations we are currently facing within our communities.

Our main assumption envisions that media come to be a central element, both for social relationships to take place, as well as for instrumental tasks and daily chores. Our intention will be to focus on mobile communication and on the value of mobility for current social arrangements, exploring the impact of this type of access, and practices performed through it, on the levels of social cohesion and sense of belonging to a group or community. Mobility and mobile communication here will be approached as a new and original social shared system that allows for original individual and social patterns of orientation and interaction and that are being adopted worldwide, compelling individuals and institutions to conform and adopt this new mobile trend and mobile media logic. Our main problem questions 1) whether the emergence of network technologies, namely the adoption and use of mobile features and services (apps) that allow for social interaction, have any impact on associated social configurations such as social cohesion, sense of belonging and integration in social groups; 2) whether contemporary social arrangements are in some way an outcome of technological processes, in this case regarding mobile technologies; 3) whether there are other intervenient forces beyond media-related aspects and what are they; and finally, 4) what is the value of mobility for current social practices of interaction and participation.

In order to further explore these questions, an empirical research project on the study of mobile internet use and adoption will be presented and discussed. This project includes a three-year investigation which explored the 1) relevance of mobility as a driving force for social involvement; 2) the role of a mobile application (app) in community life and its value for the promotion of social engagement, social cohesion, and subjective expression; and lastly, 3) the emergence of new consumption rituals and cross-media behaviors after the dissemination and adoption of a mobile app for communication and content sharing and distribution.

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