Academic journal article JITTA : Journal of Information Technology Theory and Application

A Field Study of Perceptions and Use of Mobile Telephones by 16 to 22 Year Olds

Academic journal article JITTA : Journal of Information Technology Theory and Application

A Field Study of Perceptions and Use of Mobile Telephones by 16 to 22 Year Olds

Article excerpt


What do young people want from mobile technologies? How do they use mobile technologies in their everyday lives? This work uses multiple research methods to build understanding of 16 to 22 year olds' perceptions and use of mobile telephones. We propose a model of technology ' appropriation that represents the way they evaluate and integrate mobile telephones into their lives. The paper contributes to both information systems (IS) theory and practice. For IS researchers, this paper presents a picture of lifestyle rather than task-oriented technology use in diverse-and principally non-organisational-contexts. The multi-method research approach is in and of itself a contribution in enabling IS researchers to construct a rich and sound understanding of mobile technology use in different contexts. The paper contributes to IS design, marketing and training practice by describing the influences on 16 to 22 year olds' appropriation of mobile telephones.


Mobile technologies, particularly mobile (cellular) telephones and text messaging, have been widely adopted of young people and integrated into their everyday lives. To date there have been few descriptions of the ways that young people are adopting and using mobile telephones and there is little understanding of the reasons for high levels of use. This haper reports on a joint collaborative research project between Novell Pty. Ltd. and the University of Melbourne called `Customers of the Future'. The project examines the use of mobile telephones in the everyday lives by young people aged between 16 and 22. The paper describes and helps understand the process of 'technology appropriation' through which the participants evaluate, adopt and shape mobile telephones to their needs.


We are investigating young people's perceptions of mobile technologies and how they are used in their social, leisure, work and educational worlds:

* What do they want from mobile technologies?

* How do they use mobile technologies?

Our interest in future needs and desires for technology influenced our selection of the research cohort (16 to 22 year olds) and context (large cities in a developed country). We studied the 16 to 22 year cohort as these are the 'customers of the future', moving from childhood into independent life in the adult world. The context is the two largest cities in Australia which is considered an early adopter of mobile technology. Urban young Australians are enthusiastic users of mobile telephones and Short Messaging Service (SMS, also called text messaging). Currently, use of mobile technologies in developed countries varies greatly:

* In Japan ownership of mobile technologies is high and Mode, the dominant service, is particularly popular with young people (Barnes 2001). However, the mobile technology context is unique due to a combination of economic, political and social factors (Barnes 2001; ICL 2000).

* In the US mobile telephone ownership is quite high but intense competition between telecommunication companies has prevented the provision of a common communication platform that would allow users to SMS subscribers of other companies

* In the rest of the developed world, including Australia, Scandinavia, the UK, and other parts of Europe and Asia ownership is rather high. About 65% of Australians own a mobile telephone, similar figures to the UK but somewhat less than Scandinavia, Italy and Hong Kong (Barnes 2001; Gooch 2002). Countries with a high use of SMS include all Scandinavian countries as well as the UK, Italy, Germany, Spain, Holland, Belgium, Australia and the Philippines. All of these countries have an integrated wireless medium and mobile telephones and SMS has been adopted by youngsters with great passion (see Carroll et al. 2001 in Australia; Ling and Yttri 1999 in Norway; Taylor and Harper 2001 in the UK).


Traditional IS research approaches that focus on studying work practices in organisational settings (for example, Currie and Galliers 1999) were found wanting when applied to our cohort of interest (16 to 22 year olds rather than adult employees), our technology focus (mobile telephones rather than organisational information systems) and our activity set (work, leisure, social and educational activities rather than merely work). …

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