Mobile Phone Usage and Rituals


It is inevitable in today’s society to live without a mobile phone. However, there is a small percentage of the society who refrains from using the mobile phone but uses the landline instead. The technology of mobile phones has developed over time, forcing some people to adapt, adjust and accommodate. Being able to access most information at any point of time with the touch of your finger is definitely what technology is all about. Not everyone in the society would find it easy to adapt the technology, it would take some time but by that time technology would have advanced even further.


As the recent technologies of smartphones are booming, a friend of mine who just started university decided to adopt the HTC Desire HD. Since she was going to spend about 3 years here, she thought it would be a good idea to get a smartphone through the Vodafone contract. She did mention that she was not sure whether to get the iPhone4 or the HTC, as the feedback varied. Previously in Singapore, she has been using the ordinary Nokia 6700 for 5 years and she found the functions of the phone sufficient to her needs.

I selected to study Radhia Kazura because of the sudden change she had from an ordinary phone to a smartphone. Considering the big leap of technology in terms of the functions and applications of an ordinary Nokia 6700 to a HTC Desire HD, she would be an interesting subject to study. It would be very fascinating to see how she incorporates her new phone to her everyday life. She also mentioned that she still has not adopted all the new applications as she is still in the process of learning how to maximize the functions of the phone.


In attempt to observe the way Radhia incorporates her phone in to her everyday life, I prepared a diary for Radhia to record her usage of the smartphone. The diary requires here to key in the time, the purpose of the usage (i.e Call, Text, Email, Music, Time, Games, etc), where was she at the time she used this device (i.e lecture, work, home, bus, other) and how long did she spend with the phone. To ensure my research went smoothly, I also gave her some questions to fill out at the end of the week to give me a better understanding to her general usage and adaptations of her smartphone.

After the week was over, I collected the diary and tabulated the results in a manner which was easier to refer to and understand. As a student, Radhia had a wide spread of timetable and work hours which gave some day’s different results. Just to ensure that the variables were taken into consideration I clarified some sections of the diary with Radhia and took note of the necessary changes. Through all the data and information collected from the diary, I was then able to further my study on the concepts she adapted in order to engage herself with the smartphone in her everyday life.


New media technologies are the way people around the world stay connected these days. In some way or the other everyone engages in this form of technology. The print media, internet, radio, and television are also the main source of information; people would also try their best to access the information through various mediums (i.e. new media technologies). New media technology has changed our society thus, resulting in a study to find out how a particular person would incorporate the new media technology in their daily routine.


As the method suggested, the details of Radhia’s phone usage was recorded in the diary. On average, she uses her phone once every 2 hours and the most common purpose was to text a friend. She has the application What’s App which she uses to text her friends from other parts of the world throughout the day.

The diary indicated that the next most use application was the calls she received and made. However her call patterns show that she often calls her friend Kaveiinaa and when asked her she mention that she often spends time at Kaveiinaa’s apartment; and the calls were to inform her friend that she is coming over. The average time she spent talking on the phone was about 9minutes per call.

Based on the diary, she spends most of her time at home. This explains why she does not spend as much time social networking at home compared to in lectures or in the bus. Another regular pattern observed was she uses her phone to check the emails first thing she wakes up in the morning. The last thing she does before she goes to bed is set the alarm clock.

She uses her phone to listen to music each time she is walking for more than 10 minutes. Another common pattern observed was she spends about 15 minutes in the lecture reading the news from her phone.

Overall, Radhia’s usage of her smartphone surrounds the basic call and text. She also spends sometime social networking; she uses the other applications like the GPS or Skype only in times of need. It is also understood that she uses other forms of technology like her laptop to engage media information or to connect with people when she is at home resulting on the decreased usage of her smartphone at home.


Media Rituals

Based on the findings, media rituals seems to be the most prominent concept Radhia had while engaging with her smartphone through her daily routine. The elements of media have intensified the need of a media ritual to a point the society depends on it and would not be able to function without some forms of it. ‘Media rituals’ refers to the range of situations where media themselves ‘stand in’ for something wider which is linked to the fundamental organizational level or imagine ourselves to be connected as a member of the society (Couldry 2003, p. 4).

The concept of media ritual was reflected in Radhia’s smartphone usage. The first thing she does every morning is to switch off the alarm clock and check her incoming email for the day, and the last thing she does before going to bed is to set the alarm clock and check for the latest social updates. Her usage throughout the day then varies depending on her schedule. Her smartphone is a vital tool for her to ensure she is able to stay connected as a member of the society. Without her smartphone she would not be able to get latest news updates through a media supported application (i.e. social networking sites). Her other media rituals throughout the day surrounds the usage of her smartphone and her laptop.

The society believes that the attention from media is planned and monitored, nevertheless unconsciously people engage with media due to the increase and availability of media forms thus going unnoticed in the society’s daily ritual (Hobsbawm & Ranger 1983, p. 11). This is apparent in Radhia, as I am sure she had no idea that her smartphone assisted her in engaging with all media forms throughout the day. Not realizing her media habit, she sees her phone as a form of communication with the broader society without associating it through a media form.


As engaged as she can be with her smartphone, she may not be aware of her surroundings. The smartphone digitally created media spaces which potentially intertwine with physical spaces (Volker 2007, p. 135). Without her noticing, she spends some of her time during lectures lost in the media space as she actively engages with some of her smartphone applications. She is physically present in her lecture theatre as well as digitally present in media spaces such as some social networking websites.

The concept of mobility occurs even when she is talking on the phone with her friend. Physically she maybe at home but she is digitally present at her friend’s place. Spending time constantly with the smartphone causes her to double the space. Mizuko Ito mentioned that the mobile phone can indeed enable communication that crosses prior social boundaries but it does not mean that the devices erode the integrity of existing places or social identities. Radhia may be in multiple spaces at a given time but as far as she is concern the only place she is in is the physical space. However situations like this definitely isolates her from the public place and places her in her very own ‘social’ place.

Media increases the accessibility of the world to individuals through mediums such as the internet (Slater 2000, p. 5). Through a smartphone Radhia has full access of the internet as well as the applications which run media information through the internet. However, in another aspect the internet limits our experience of space as individuals have the ability to be obsessed with the media process resulting in dependency on media as a daily routine (Turkle 1996, p. 166). She would be stuck in two separate spaces at one point of time.

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