Academic journal article Journal of Information, Information Technology, and Organizations

MXIT: Uses, Perceptions and Self-Justifications

Academic journal article Journal of Information, Information Technology, and Organizations

MXIT: Uses, Perceptions and Self-Justifications

Article excerpt

Introduction

Social Interaction Technologies (SITs) have expanded the ways in which people communicate. They have added methods of social networking (Valenzuela, Park, & Lee, 2008). According to Mitrano (2006, p. 17), the technology offers people the opportunity to burst out of their parochial communities and make connections around the world. Basket-weavers and metallurgists and other hobby-seekers expanded their expertise, interests, and sometimes even professions, while everything from dating sites to interest groups to social and political movements blossomed. In regions with low Internet and computer penetration--such as South Africa--mobile platforms provide SIT applications (Chigona, Kamkwenda, & Manjoo, 2008). One example of mobile-based SITs is Mobile Instant Messaging (MIM).

The most popular MIM in South Africa (SA) is MXit (Bosch, 2008). Since its inception in 2005, the adoption of the system has been phenomenal (Duarando, Parker, & de la Harpe, 2007). Currently there are over seven million MXit users and the numbers are growing at the rate of over 9,000 per day. As is the case with computer-based instant messaging applications, the adoption of MXit is particularly high amongst the youth (Durando et al., 2007). However, the wide spread of the system has raised a number of concerns amongst many members of society. The local media points out that inter alia the system has the potential of degrading the moral standards and providing a hunting ground for paedophiles (Chigona & Chigona, 2008). As Chigona and Chigona (2008) note, the media have mainly based their reports on the stories told by parents and educators and not from the youth who are the main users of the system. While the motivation for the distortion is subject to debate, one can still argue that such negative discourse has the potential of affecting the usage of the system (Cukier, Ngwenyama, Bauer, & Middleton, 2009; Fairclough, 1995; Jensen & Jankowsk, 1991). However, that seems not to be the case. It is interesting, therefore, to explore not only the perceptions and the experiences of the users of MXit, but also how the users deal with the negative discourse about the system. Chigona, Kamkwenda, and Manjoo (2008) noted that in most cases parents are responsible for the acquisition of mobile phones as well as for paying the phone bills for the children. It is therefore interesting to investigate how the parents reconcile the negative discourse with their children's use of MXit. An understanding of the users' experiences and perception would help various stakeholders, including the youth, to make the most of the technology.

The aim of this pilot study is to explore the perceptions and use of MXit amongst the South African youth, as well as the perceptions of their parents and how they (both the users and the parents) reconcile the negative discourse, on the one hand, with the use of the system, on the other hand. Data for the study was gathered from the youth who use MXit, as well as from parents of children who use the system. This study contributes towards the understanding of the role of new media in the lives of the youth. MXit has already proved to be a viable teaching/tutoring option as well as a marketing tool (Butegreit, 2007; Duarando et al., 2007). This is especially critical taking into account the low computer and traditional Internet penetration in South Africa. The study also contributes towards the body of knowledge on mobile applications in developing countries. Currently there is a void in research that directly addresses MIM and its social impact in developing countries.

Literature Review

MXit

MIM is a synchronous communication tool that works on mobile devices such as PDAs and cell phones. Unlike SMS, MIM uses internet protocol to exchange messages. MIMs function in a way similar to computer-based instant messages (e.g., Messenger and ICQ). Unlike the other MIMs on the South African market, MXit is network-independent i. …

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