Media Representation of Mobile Technologies: A Content Analysis of Television Commercials

TitleMedia Representation of Mobile Technologies: A Content Analysis of Television Commercials
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Lu, J., and B. Li
Affiliation (1st Author)School of Journalism and Communication Tsinghua University, CN
Section or WGCommunication Policy and Technology
DateWed 26 June
Slot CodeCPTW3b
Slot Code (Keyword)CPTW3b
Time of Session14:00-15:30
Session TitleMobile regulation, marketing and use
Submission ID5566

The rapid development of mobile technologies draws increasing attention of scholars, who have conducted extensive research about mobile technologies and their impacts in a wide range of social contexts and situations. However, existing studies seem to ignore a more basic question – what do mobile technologies mean to us? This question is basic because it touches essential attributes of mobile technologies, which are neither technologically determined nor externally imposed, but are socially constructed and shared by people who use them in everyday life. Silverstone and Hirsch (1992) argue that at least two essential attributes are embedded with social meanings of technologies – practical functions and symbolic values. These attributes and their relations are critical for us to understand the process of domestication of technologies in which technologies are conceptually integrated into everyday life and adapted into daily practices. Hall (1997) suggests that social meanings are produced in media representation. The study of social meanings of mobile technologies depends on the analysis about how these technologies are represented in media texts. This study conducts a quantitative content analysis to explore how mobile technologies are represented in television commercials. The sample commercials were broadcasted in China between 2006 and 2009, including three basic types of mobile technologies – cars, computers, and mobile phones. The analysis highlights two essential attributes of mobile technologies. One is to explore what practical functions are represented in commercials, and the other is to examine what symbolic values are reflected in commercials about mobile technologies. The analysis of multiple co-presences indicates the practical function of mobile technologies in separating time and space. Urry’s (2002) classification is adopted to include four basic co-presence types: face-to-face, face-the-place, face-the-moment, and face-the-objects. The analysis of mobility values illustrates symbolic values people attach to different mobile technologies. Kesselring’s (2008) definition of directional mobility and non-directional mobility is developed into three major categories of mobility values: directional mobility – traditional values, directional mobility – modern values, and non-directional mobility. As a result, cars are found to enable the co-presence of place-sharing and be consumed with directional mobility values of the early modernity. In contrast, mobile phones are found to enable the co-presence of time-sharing and be consumed with non-directional mobility values of the late or post modernity. Computers are found to fall in between cars and mobile phones. The connection between co-presences and mobility values describes how social meanings of mobile technologies are produced between practical functions and symbolic values. The production mechanism is expressed in a shift from the association between the co-presence of place-sharing and directional mobility values to the one between the co-presence of time-sharing and non-directional mobility values.

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