Scholarly article on topic 'From Dialing to Tapping: University Students Report on Mobile Phone Use'

From Dialing to Tapping: University Students Report on Mobile Phone Use Academic research paper on "Media and communications"

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{"Mobile phones" / Smartphone / Text / Call / Micro-coordination / Hyper-coordination}

Abstract of research paper on Media and communications, author of scientific article — J. Fowler, J. Noyes

Abstract As mobile phones become increasingly ubiquitous, the functional capacity of the mobile phone continues to diversify. Ownership and use of the mobile are most prevalent in young people. A survey of 218 university students, aged 18 years and over, is reported. Three questionnaires were developed to find out about mobile phone use. These were followed up with interviews. It is found that the mobile phone is an integral tool in the everyday life of young people with many advantages relating to use. These are discussed with reference to information that is communicated by calling or texting. However, a level of caution in use is recommended due to concerns expressed by participants.

Academic research paper on topic "From Dialing to Tapping: University Students Report on Mobile Phone Use"

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Procedia Manufacturing 3 (2015) 4716 - 4723

6th International Conference on Applied Human Factors and Ergonomics (AHFE 2015) and the

Affiliated Conferences, AHFE 2015

From dialing to tapping: University students report on mobile phone

J. Fowler*, J. Noyes

School of Experimental Psychology, University of Bristol, 12A Priory Road, Bristol BS8 ITU, UK

Abstract

As mobile phones become increasingly ubiquitous, the functional capacity of the mobile phone continues to diversify. Ownership and use of the mobile are most prevalent in young people. A survey of 218 university students, aged 18 years and over, is reported. Three questionnaires were developed to find out about mobile phone use. These were followed up with interviews. It is found that the mobile phone is an integral tool in the everyday life of young people with many advantages relating to use.These are discussed with reference to information that is communicated by calling or texting. However, a level of caution in use is recommended due to concerns expressed by participants.

© 2015 The Authors.Published by ElsevierB.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license

(http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of AHFE Conference

Keywords/Mobile phones; Smartphone; Text; Call; Micro-coordination; Hyper-coordination

1. Introduction

The mobile phone has been characterised by its ubiquitous nature since its inception and has now become an everyday tool for many people [1]. Ownership and use of mobile phones are most prevalent in young people [2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8]. Smartphone use continues to increase amongst all ages, especially by the under 25 year olds. Ofcom facts and figures for the UK show that 61% of adult users owned a smartphone in 2014 and 93% owned a mobile phone

* Corresponding author. Tel.:+44-117-331-0494; fax: +44-117-928-8588. E-mail address: jo.fowler@bristol.ac.uk

2351-9789 © 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license

(http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of AHFE Conference

doi: 10.1016/j.promfg.2015.07.568

It has been suggested that the reasons for the success of the mobile phone are due to its portability, multipurpose use, constant accessibility and reachability. The latter has led to terms such as "always on" [10]and "perpetual contact" [11] as a way of describing the way users interact with this technology. There is no doubt that the mobile phone has had a large impact on people's lives. Brown [2011] commenting on a behavioural study by Motorola [12] endorses the impact mobile technology has had on people's lives of permanently changing the way we work, live and love. It has been claimed that mobile phones are "redefining careers, the family unit and social intercourse" [13]. The mobile phone facilitates people in the organisationof their lives. Ling and Ytrri [6] introduced the terms microcoordination and hyper-coordination to help understand the way users organise their lives through using their mobile phone. Micro-coordination refers to the flexibility that can occur with a mobile phone when arranging meetings; it is possible to change and adapt the agreement as the need arises thus the when and where of meetings can be changed through the mobile phone. Hyper-coordination refers to micro-coordination and the expressive use of the mobile for social and emotional communication. This connectivity from hyper-coordination refers to work, family and personal relationships.

Geser [14] has documented the ever increasing use of the mobile phone by young users and the importance of the text messaging culture. The rapid increase in mobile phone use has been discussed in many studies and also the creation of a mobile phone communication culture [1, 15, 5]. Madell and Muncer [16] found that the most important uses for mobile phones amongst teenagers were for making and receiving calls and texting. Baron's study looked into the attitudes of university students towards talking face to face, texting or calling on the mobile [17].

Text messaging was introduced into the domain of communication technology almost by accident. In 1982, a voice mobile telephone system that would work throughout Europe was created by a multinational European initiative known as Group Special Mobile, or GSM. This came into operation by 1992. A bit of leftover bandwidth was made available so that users could create short messages on the keypad by tapping the number keys between one and four times to produce alphabetic characters. This was SMS (Short Message System) texting and very quickly became popular amongst young adults and teenagers.

One of the key factors that have been observed in many studies of mobile phone use and behaviour in adults and young people is that the very function that people enjoy from using their mobile phone is also the very function that has a negative aspect to them. For example, a major benefit of the mobile phone is the freedom offered by the ability to be able to be contacted at any time, but this constant connectivity and accessibility brings with it the problem of being "always on" [10] leading to a sense of dependence and in extreme cases, addiction. "Constant accessibility translates to greater efficiency and more comfort, but also increased stress"[13]. "One may be dependent on connection and feel constant worry over accessibility, as though one were addicted to the connections the mobile phone makes possible"[23]. Such negative characteristics range from disruptive sleep to carpel tunnel syndrome (from heavy texting), distraction from the cognitive or social task at hand, or clinical addiction [17, 19].

The purpose of this study is to continue the exploration of this conundrum in young adults to find out their perceptions of mobile phones. It was found that young users of 8 to 11 and 11 to 14 years old experienced a 'contradictory pull' towards their use of mobile phones [20, 21]. Are 'the contradictory pulls' of the mobile phone experienced by young users also experienced by young adults? What 'contradictory pulls' do they experience when they use their mobile phone and what do they think about this? Most previous studies have considered empirical usage data. This study, while considering usage issues through questionnaire data, also looked at concerns users themselves have about their phones. The latter is carried out through open ended interviews. This study considers the 'contradictory pull' experienced by university students towards their mobile phone and what they think about this. Drawing on studies of young people's use of mobile phones [22, 6] a survey was conducted to find out about mobile phone use and attitudes of use. Previous studies have shown communication, in particular texting to be the most important mobile phone use [23, 20, 21] of young mobile phone users. The first hypothesis is that communication in particular texting is the most important use of young adult mobile phone users. Research Question 1: Is communication, in particular texting, the most important use for young mobile phone users?

To understand young users' attitudes towards mobile phones, the second research question asked them if they preferred to call or text and what influences their decision to call or text. Research question 2: Do young users prefer to call or text and what influence their decision to text rather than call? and 'What makes you decide to text rather than call?

The third research question asked about the kinds of concerns young users have about mobile phones. Research question 3: What kind of concerns do young users express about mobile phones? This was carried out through a range of open ended questions. These questions asked users about their mobile phone use and why they thought the mobile phone had become such an important part of everyday life.

2. Method

2.1. Participants

Participants were 218 university students (177 females, 46 males) aged 18 or 19 years at the University ofBristol, UK. Interviews were then carried out with five males and 16 females. Ethical approval for the study was given by the University.

2.2. Materials

Three online questionnaires using the Bristol Online Survey (BOS) tool were completed. They were designed to find out how young people use mobile phones and their attitudes towards their use. Four age group categories based on school year group were created (8-11; 11-14; 14-18; 18+) so that questionnaires could be adapted for the needs of different age groups. This paper considers the 18+ group.

2.3. Procedure

Face to face semi-structured interviews aimed to extract a rich account of personal opinions from the participants' own unprompted observations. Students had the opportunity to ask questions. Audio recordings of the interviews were transcribed verbatim. Interpretative phenomenological analysis [24] was then used to analyse the data.

3. Results

Some of the questionnaire results and interviews are reported here. Descriptive statistics showed that all participants have access to a mobile phone and all own a mobile phone. Most are smart phones.

3.1. The most popular uses

The most popular use of mobile phones is the alarm function as reported by 96% of participants. This is followed by Internet use (93%) and sending and receiving texts (88%). This was the same for Facebook use. Making calls (87%) was followed by email use (84%) and listening to music and exchanging photos (76%).

When asked how participants liked to contact people, face to face contact was the most popular (99%) slightly ahead of texting (98%). Facebook was also popular (92%).Table 1 shows the themes identified by using interpretative phenomenological analysis.

Some comments from the interviews are reported. The responses from the interviewed participants are described under themes identified by the authors

Table 1.Findings from the Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) of the interviews.

Superordinate Themes Emergent Themes Phone Function

Usefulness Organising schedules Functional Internet, Calendar, Clock, Reminders, Internet, Social Media

Communication Contact with friends and family Texting, Calling, Internet, Social Media

Safety and Security Emergency situations Walking home at night Calling

Compulsion Constant checking Emails, Internet, Texting, Social Media

Keeping up to date Trends/News Internet, Social Media

Immediacy Instant action Calling, Internet, maps, reminders

Entertainment Leisure Listening to music, playing games

3.2. Question: What do you think about mobile phones?

3.2.1. Phones are useful and have multi-functional value

"I like it being able to fit in a pocket and carry it around. You have a calendar on your phone. You have a To Do list, obviously you can still call and communicate with people but it all just fits in your pocket. You can take photos."

"It's so convenient. I think there are a very good. They're a very useful part of life."

"I use it to remind me to do work, check my emails, find out where a lecture is, that sort of thing."

3.2.2. Phones are useful and users feel a sense of dependency on their phone

"Before getting a new phone, I didn't have a phone for a week and I found it so difficult." "If I couldn't access email or my text messages on my phone or I couldn't check on my phone, I know I would probably have been lost or not having access to find things out, like, I would have been lost in London many times."

3.2.3. Phones are goodfor communicating and keeping contact

"I find it really important for communication and also at university, it's really important to be able to keep in touch with people really easily, and people from home and keep that link."

3.2.4. Immediacy

"Just to be able to quickly communicate with someone, ask a question like when you are shopping you can straight away ask do you need me to buy milk now?"

"I think they are great. I can get in contact with people whenever I need to and also so people can get in touch with me straight away."

3.2.5. Organising schedules

"I think they are really useful for being able to arrange meetings"

"I think, from a social point of view, sometimes not having a phone can be more isolating; a lot of people will send out a message and if you're not in the right place at the right time, you won't be contactable."

3.2.6. Compulsion

"I use it to take notes and look at lectures but sometimes it's quite distracting. I often check things a lot, almost compulsively sometimes, almost like a habit; I just use it even when I don't really want to. Like, if I'm doing an essay, I go to check emails when I've only done it five minutes ago. Nothing's happened in the last five minutes but I still check it. When I become aware I am being a bit compulsive, I sometimes turn the phone off."

3.2.7. The Internet

"It keeps you connected to a lot of things." Being out and about a lot; if I want to know something I just google

3.2.8. Keeping up to date

"They help you communicate and keep up to date with birthdays and arrangements especially if they change."

3.2.9. Social Network, in particular Facebook are important

"It's like, I know I do it. I get stuck in a sort of social media loop. I'll be, like on my phone on Facebook, go to Instagram, go on Twitter, then go to Tumbler, and then go back to Facebook and before I realise it, it's like 30 minutes and it's like, OMG, I haven't got any work done."

3.2.10. Safety

"If I didn't have my mobile phone, I would feel unsafe. I would feel a bit uncomfortable especially if I'm feeling a bit weird when going home at night or something."

3.3. Question: Why do you think mobile phones have become such an important part of everyday life?

3.3.1. Phones are useful and multi-functional

"Phones make our lives a lot easier which is why we choose to use them."

"When you are at university or going into a professional career you need a certain level of functionality these days."

3.3.2. Phones are good for communicating and keeping contact

"Keeping contact with all our friends, calling our family. Everyone has a mobile phone now and that's why." "I feel more safe when I have my phone. If something happened to me, I could call someone. If I'm in the middle of nowhere and I break down."

3.3.3. Immediacy

"It's easy to use and they can do so much. We rely on them so much. Being out and about a lot; if I want to know something I just google it."

3.3.4. Organising schedules

"I mean, you start the day because your iPhone has woken you up. It's the first thing you check and then you get your messages and it starts from there. Then you get ready and then you start checking your timetable."

3.3.5. Keeping up to date

"Certain things could be happening and you could have no idea what's going on."

"You can research anything you want to like, newspapers, just generally keeping up to date with the world you can do on your phone as well as contacting anybody you need to talk to so they know where you are."

3.3.6. Compulsion and addiction

"I think people have become so embedded in constantly needing to be given information and updated about stuff. And like the games are so addicting, people can't put them down."

3.3.7. The Internet

"You can have access to the Internet which you can have through your phone and it's the most portable and convenient way of doing it."

"The use of the Internet is dominating society now. Everyone is on the Internet doing something or other. It's become so important where we have to constantly use it."

3.3.8. Social Media

"Talking to people, social media as well, say like Twitter."

3.4. Question: Do you prefer to call or text?

Participants prefer to text (n=6) rather than talk (n=4). The remaining participants (n=7) said the decision of whether to text or talk depended on the reason they were using the phone.

3.4.1. Question: What makes you decide to text rather than call?

"I like to text if I'm on the move or something like (if I am sending a message to say) I'll see you in five minutes."

"If you are in a place where you can't really talk like in a library."

"If it's kind of like the first time you are friends with somebody, you'd probably send them a text." "I like texting because I don't feel like I'm imposing myself on the other person. Like I can text them and then when they're free, they can answer me back whereas if you ring, they have to answer." "It's more private. People can hear your conversations." "It's easier and quicker and more convenient."

"Texting you can do all the time. You can be like; watching a programme and texting or you can be walking down the road and texting."

"It's a really good way to keep in contact with someone, like people in your family especially if you change things".

"I find calling is quite long but texting you can do whenever you want and wherever. With calling, you have to sit down and you have to talk to them."

"Texting is useful when you want to quickly get a conversation out the way that is more out of necessity."

"Mostly because I'm lazy."

"If you want time to think you text."

3.4.2. Question: What makes you decide to call rather than text? "It's definitely about being able to convey my emotions."

"I'd rather hear someone than reading what they are trying to get across in a whole text message." "Reading a long text message is kind of annoying."

"Yeah, if it's something urgent or you'd like to have a proper conversation with that person I will call." "What I really like about phones is that when you do talk to someone, like you know the word um, you can't use that, express that in a text, it sounds like so sarcastic."

"Sometimes I want an immediate response, then I'll ring."

"If I can't be bothered to text. I find it easier to call."

"If you text, they may not check it. So if you want an immediate response."

"I can tell how they are feeling through calling but with texting they can often be mis-read or can be misunderstood and they don't fully explain themselves because it's quite an effort to text. Especially with my parents, I prefer to talk to them on the phone because they're not very good at texting."

"If I need to meet someone to tell them where I am or if I need to ask them to call me or sometimes through our course, we have texting so, if somebody needs to say something to each other, we will have a big group of us texting, to check if there is something we have missed in a lecture and things like that."

4. Discussion

The results show that all university students own a mobile phone. The most popular uses of the phone are the alarm, the Internet, texting, Facebook and calling. The hypothesis that texting, as found in previous studies [14, 16, 21], would be the most popular use is not the case. The questionnaires show that themost popular use of mobile phones is the alarm function followed by the Internet. The next most popular use was sending and receiving texts. This was the same for the use of Facebook. After this, participants said they liked to call people followed by the use of email. As the alarm and Internet are multi-functional and have other functions apart from communication, texting is still the most popular form of communication. Texting, calling, Facebook are only used for communication purposes.When asked how participants liked to contact people, face to face contact was the most popular followed by texting. This was followed by Facebook and then calling.

A number of themes have been identified in the Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA)of the interviews. These are usefulness, communication, safety and security, keeping up to date, immediacy, compulsion and entertainment.

There is evidence of the 'contradictory pull' in the interviews. The 'contradictory pull' of factors participants like about mobile phones but at the same time experience a negative quality can be seen on many occasions. Whilst participants find the mobile phone useful and feel safe at night by having their phone with them, they can also experience the phone as being"quite anti-social, like, if there is a group of people that you don't know that well and everyone's just using their phone, I think it's really bad".Participants also experience a sense of compulsion with mobile phone use constantly checking emails and texts, "Nothing's happened in the last five minutes but I still check it". They might also experience a sense of dependence. One participant comments, "My mobile phone is completely essential to me" and another says, "Well, I like them but they do a get to a point that you use them so much and, like you don't even realise it, that you are missing things that are happening around you".

Although some individuals have contradictory feelings surrounding mobile phone use, most university students in this study have positive attitudes to their phones and find the phone facilitates their lives. It is a multi-functional, portable gadget that assists them in organising their timetable and finding out about timetable changes.The way in which young people organise their lives, both socially and functionally allows for last minute changes and adaptations. Everyday changes are possible so schedules do not have to be rigid and life can be immediate and in the present. It facilitates them being able to change plans on the move, whether it is being late for a meeting or asking for a friend to buy something when shopping. The intricacies of organising through micro-ordination benefit the smooth running of their lives. One participant commented how "phones have changed our social organisation". The way in which young people keep up to date has also changed and the level of importance they attach to being up to date and knowledgeable about the latest trends and events.

The results for whether or not participants decide to text rather than call or call rather than text are similar to the results found by other studies [17,14]. Users experience many benefits to texting. For example, texting information allows users time to choose what information to include in a text. Baron [17] found texting meant the message could be "kept short, and talking takes too long" (p. 14). Texting meant that users don't have to become entrapped in extended conversations. By texting information, they could also choose what information to include.

In conclusion, the decision to talk or text is complex and varied. It is based on individual differences and individual perceptions and understanding of how participants perceive different functions and features on the phone. Individuals make decisions on whether to text or talk depending on what information is being expressed and also what the purpose of the message is. This was also found by Baron [17] and Ling and Yttri [6]. Although texting is the most popular means of communicating, many participants are aware of the limitations of texting.

Some traditional ways of communicating are changing. For example, many participants prefer to communicate through Facebook or texting. This is the case for particular types of communication, for example, for microcoordination in their lives and sometimes for avoiding face to face contact. It is easier to text. One of the advantages of texting is that it allows the user to think through what they want to communicate. They can also multi-task and carry out other activities at the same time. Hyper-coordination however facilitates calling as the preferred means of communication because young adults like "to hear the tone or expression in people's voices". The interviews indicate that when participants want a more 'meaningful' contact, they choose face-to-face contact rather than

technological connections. The characteristics of 'real life' contact with each other are important and valued by university students.However, a level of caution is noted and further study is required to research the compulsive and addictive behaviour that mobile phones afford.

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