Broadening Conceptions of Mobile and Its Social Dynamics

Wonderful to see a chapter by me, Frank Hangler, and Ginette Law, entitled ‘Broadening Conceptions of Mobile and Its Social Dynamics’ in Chan, J. M., and Lee, F. L. F. (2017), Advancing Comparative Media and Communication Research (London: Routledge), pp. 142-170. It arrived at my office today.

The volume evolved out of an international conference to mark the 50th anniversary of the School of Journalism and Communication at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2015. But the paper’s origins date back to a project that I did during my last months at Oxford in 2014, and early in my tenure at MSU, as the Principal Investigator with Ginette and Frank, of a project called ‘The Social Shaping of Mobile Internet Developments and their Implications for Evolving Lifestyles’, supported by a contract from Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd to Oxford University Consulting. This led first to a working paper done jointly with colleagues from Oxford University and Huawei: Dutton, William H. and Law, Ginette and Groselj, Darja and Hangler, Frank and Vidan, Gili and Cheng, Lin and Lu, Xiaobin and Zhi, Hui and Zhao, Qiyong and Wang, Bin, Mobile Communication Today and Tomorrow (December 4, 2014). A Quello Policy Research Paper, Quello Center, Michigan State University.. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2534236 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2534236

The project moved me into a far better understanding and appreciation of the significance of mobile, but also its varied and evolving definitions. Before this paper, I was skeptical of academic work centered on mobile as I considered it one area of Internet studies. However, by the end of the project, I became convinced that mobile communication is a useful and complex area for research, policy and practice, complementary to Internet studies. In the working paper, we forecast the disappearance of the mobile phone device, which seemed far-fetched when we suggested this to Huawei, but is now becoming a popular conception. So look forward to a future in which that awkward scene of people walking along looking at their mobile will come to an end, in a good way.

This paper illustrates the often circuitous route of academic work from conception to publication, which is increasingly international and collaborative. So thanks to the editors, my co-authors, Oxford Consulting, and Huawei for your support and patience. Academic time is another world. But it was all worth doing and the wait.

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     Frank Hangler, Co-Author

 

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Ginette Law, Co-Author

A University Network that Worked: Universitas 21 Graduate Research Conference (U21)

I just participated in a Universitas 21 Gradudate Research Conference – this one held around the topic of our digital future and held at Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU), China, from 9-12 June 2015. It was organised by SJTU’s School of Media and Design in collaboration with the university’s Division of Cooperation and Exchange.

It was the first experience I have had with this scheme, even though it has been in operation since 1997. I left very impressed with the idea and its implementation. It brought together a strong international set of graduate students from an amazingly diverse range of disciplines, from Internet studies to chemistry.

Essentially, some 29 universities collaborate in this U21 network. Members propose topics for conferences that they will administer, and SJTU proposed a topic for this particular meeting on our ‘Digital Future’. Once a theme or topic is accepted, each university in the network solicits proposals from graduate students across their respective universities. Each university then reviews the proposals and selects one to three students, for whom they support travel to attend the conference. The hosting university then provides facilities and support for local food and lodging.

Given an increasing focus on interdisciplinary issues, such as digital futures, this scheme merits consideration. Most other seminars and conferences I’ve attended around similar topics are more confined to a few disciplines or fields, as they are more likely to be organized by networks within particular fields. This university-centered, rather than disciplinary-centric, approach seemed to have yielded a truly interdisciplinary set of students of high quality. Chosen by their respective universities, it was apparent that they were excellent presenters and model students to the person.

Of course, so much depends on the topic, the location, the timing, management, and much more, but the approach of this U21 network merits consideration.

I am not part of this network, beyond speaking at this particular conference, but more information about Universitas 21, which calls itself ‘the leading global network of research universities for the 21st century’ is available online, of course, at: http://www.universitas21.com

Media & Design at Shanghai Jiao Tong University
Media & Design at Shanghai Jiao Tong University
U21 Poster and Participants
U21 Poster and Participants