Loughborough University
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Going mobile: the domestication of the cell phone by teens in a rural east Texas town

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posted on 2016-06-22, 15:48 authored by Carol Cooper
This thesis explores the use of the cell phone among US teens. The research was conducted in a rural east Texas town, with two student groups, 13-14 year-olds (middle school) and 18-20 year-olds (university), between 2007 and 2008, at a time when 2G cell phones were the norm. The analysis adopts and applies the domestication framework developed by Silverstone and Hirsch (1992) within work on the social shaping of technology (Haddon, 2004; Berker, 2006; Selwyn, 2012), and points to some limitations and areas for further development within this approach. The thesis explores the extent to which teens use of the cell phone serves as a vehicle for self-expression and collective identity. It considers their emotional investment and connection with the cell phone as an extension of the self ; as well as its role as a focus for, and a means of, regulation of young people both by adults and by peers. The analysis suggests that, far from being a matter of free choice and autonomy, teens use of cell phones may be restricted by cost (of texting, calling plan), features (of particular phones), and by parental or institutional rules about how, where and when cell phones may be used. Use may also be regulated by peers in terms of when and with whom to talk or text, enabling peer groups to exclude others. Through the lens of the domestication framework this thesis concludes that teens in this context are not an homogenous group: the ways they incorporate the cell phone into their everyday lives may differ to a degree, not least as a result of parental and institutional regulation. The research does, however, identify broad areas of consensus among teens, partly linked to the geographical and socio-economic context of the participants, which provides a useful comparison with research undertaken on teens elsewhere in the world.



  • Social Sciences


  • Communication, Media, Social and Policy Studies


© Carol Cooper

Publisher statement

This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

Publication date



A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.


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