13 July 2011

New handset, new life

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New phone
The Mobile Work Life Project is a Ryerson university-based research project funded by the Canadian Social Science and Humanities Research Council. Its aim is to add to our current understanding of the now-ubiquitous use of mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. The project is primarily an ethnographic investigation, taking an anthropological approach to understanding these devices and the roles they are already playing in our lives.

Sam Ladner, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, reports on some intermediate results:

“One of the key findings we’ve uncovered so far is that people tend to adopt new communication channels (e.g., text) when they purchase new handsets. This new handset/life change correlation is a symbolic ritual that leads to new ways of communicating. […]

People buy certain items to equip themselves for the new season, but also to symbolically mark the shift from one state to the next. There are practical reasons why one would purchase a new handset when one is moving house, for example, but there is also a deeply symbolic transformation taking place. […]

I have argued in the past that financial services providers should only ever look to life changes as triggers for new products. It’s clear that new products go hand in hand with new life events. In this case, new products and new life events correlate with new technology adoption.

Technology designers should consider what events are the triggers, and incorporate these symbolically into their mobile platforms.”

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(More results on the Mobile Work Life Project blog)

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