Communication Through Gender Differential Usage Sociology Essay Example
Communication Through Gender Differential Usage Sociology Essay Example

Communication Through Gender Differential Usage Sociology Essay Example

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  • Pages: 15 (4102 words)
  • Published: August 22, 2017
  • Type: Research Paper
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The examination of societal interaction among individuals within a society is essential in sociological research because everyday interaction contributes significantly to constructing social reality.

The societal group's value, norms, and imposts are a reflection of the significance and character of various forms of interaction. The influence of patriarchal societal dominance is evident in all human social interactions. Within the social system, individuals' roles are established by their hierarchical position and vary based on specific circumstances. Additionally, people are anticipated to conduct themselves in accordance with their roles and opportunities within society.

The nature and extent of interaction individuals have with others in society largely determines their experience. In a society where men hold power, traditional ways of interacting often limit the opportunities for women to engage due to societal norms, values, and taboos. The emergence of the internet and


online communities has not significantly altered this situation. Instead of eradicating gender disparities, modern technological devices may actually reinforce existing gender differences. The use of mobile phones, for example, may redefine and empower certain individuals, while women maintain their own discourse, which may be characteristic of a submissive group.

This study aims to investigate how young males and females in contemporary Indian society assess and reevaluate the influence of new technologies and devices on shaping and discussing gender identity. Although previous research has explored the sociological implications of mobile phones in India (Geser: 2003; Katz; A; Aakhus: 2002), few studies have integrated sociological self-reflection with the utilization of mobile phones and their significance in constructing gender roles. Despite observable differences in behavior between males and females, these disparities are not always as pronounced as anticipated. Men tend to displa

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their phones more prominently during phone calls, sometimes engaging in competition. Both young men and women also prioritize the aesthetic appeal of their phones. Women, especially, often store their phones discreetly within bags, unless they rely on them for personal safety in public settings.

(Plant: 2002). Two important thinkers in the twentieth century mentioned in this text are Heidegger and Jurgen Habermas. In his major work Being and Time (1927), Heidegger introduced a significant discussion of talk or 'discourse' in the twentieth century. These ideas were further explored, criticized, and developed by various European and American thinkers, with a particular focus on German philosophers of communication. Jurgen Habermas, a prominent representative of this group, published his Theory of Communicative Action (1981), which has influenced discussions on dialogue and modern society for the past two decades. The central theme in this debate is the concept of communication itself since both twentieth-century philosophers and advocates of mobile technology in the twenty-first century aim to redefine human communication (Myerson: 2001). According to Castells et al. (2004) in their book Mobile Communication and Society: A Global Perspective, wireless communication technology is spreading worldwide at a faster rate than any other communication technology to date.

The introduction of this technology allows for communication in various forms between any two locations, as long as the appropriate infrastructure is available. This is expected to have significant social impacts. However, uncertainties exist regarding the specific effects, circumstances, recipients, and objectives. History has demonstrated that people and organizations often use technology differently from its original intent by designers – as seen with the Internet. Therefore, it can be argued that the more interactive a technology is,

the more likely users will shape its actual usage (Castells et al: 2004 p 2). The concept of gender serves as a means to differentiate between men and women based on societal and cultural norms. There are two approaches to understanding these distinctions – biological/anatomical differences known as "sex" and societal and cultural variations expressed through masculinity and femininity referred to as "gender."

Gender stereotypes encompass societal and cultural norms that dictate the behaviors, roles, and relationships of men and women. These stereotypes can vary across societies and evolve over time (Rakow & Wackwitz: 2004). They significantly influence the social identity, roles, and relationships of both males and females within a society. Various societies have their own specific norms, expectations, and rules regarding clothing choices, hairstyles, behavior (such as the expectation for girls to be shy), and interactions between genders (including beliefs in male superiority resulting in female subordination). Gender discrimination often stems from these entrenched gender stereotypes.

Feminist scholarship has challenged the deeply-held beliefs about gender differences and labeled them as cultural accomplishments (Rakow & Wackwitz, 2004). Many studies have confirmed that in patriarchal societies, gender stereotypes favor men and are used to oppress women by assigning them a lower status in society and limiting their freedom and opportunities. (World Development Report, 2007; Wainryb & Turiel, 1994; Neff, 2001). Regarding mobile adoption, research has shown various results concerning the impact of demographic variables. For instance, Ahn (2001) discovered that age, gender, and education play significant roles in determining current and intended mobile subscription among Korean consumers.

According to his research, younger people, men, and those with some post-high school education show a higher rate of intended subscriptions.

In specific contexts, communication, interaction, and mobility cause women's bodies to be displaced, restricting them to certain spaces. The participants' stories serve as a reminder that space holds more than just the stage for life's events; it carries significant symbols of experience. Therefore, for women, general and mobile communication suggests both opportunities and limitations in gendered roles and responsibilities.

The increased usage of mobile phones and other personal communication technologies (PCT) poses a challenge to the traditional perspective on researching new communication technologies. The body is no longer seen as a separate component in the communication process. Research on portable PCT must recognize the body as an integral part of the technology and vice versa. This is because the body now wears communication technology, which often becomes a second skin to its user. Consequently, technology worn on the body can play a significant role in one's sense of self and how they present themselves. The existing literature demonstrates that one such wearable technology, the mobile phone, is valued for more than just its practical utility.

According to Scott Campbell's article "Mobile Technology and the Body: Apparatgeist, Fashion, and Function" (Handbook of Mobile Communication Studies:2007), some individuals perceive the aesthetics of a mobile phone used while on the move as an embodiment of their personal style. Furthermore, they consider their phones to be an extension of themselves, even treating them akin to their own physical being. Many users engage in conversations with and interact with their phones in a manner that humanizes them, similar to how one would treat body parts that are alive. Campbell asserts that mobile phones serve practical purposes beyond just personal expression, such as

completing tasks, establishing and maintaining relationships, and providing a sense of security particularly during critical situations.

The theory of Apparatgeist, coined by Katz and Aakhus ( 2002 ), explores the relationship between the principles of show and the use of technology for communication. Apparatgeist refers to a common human orientation toward PCT (personal communication technology) and consistent tendencies in acceptance, usage, and societal transformations. It was developed based on observations of parallel shifts in communication habits resulting from mobile phone acceptance in various cultures such as Finland, Israel, Italy, Korea, the United States, France, the Netherlands, and Bulgaria. These trends manifested in various aspects of daily life including coordination of activities, formation of social networks, utilization of public spaces for private purposes, adoption of new workplace connections, and many other social domains. Therefore, Apparatgeist encompasses an underlying spirit that contributes to these similarities.

According to Katz and Aakhus, the concept of Apparatgeist can be explained by a shared logic that influences people's evaluations of the usefulness or value of technologies in their surroundings, as well as the predictions made by scientists and technology manufacturers about individual technologies (p. 307). This logic is referred to as eternal connection.

According to the writers, eternal connectivity is a "sociologic" concept that influences how we judge, create, and use communication technologies (p. 307). This concept is shaped by various social and technological factors, such as values, norms, size, and design, which affect how individuals perceive and utilize their personal technologies. When we delve beneath the surface of these external factors, we uncover the core assumption of eternal connectivity and the essence of Apparatgeist—the vision of pure communication. Katz and Aakhus (2002)

describe eternal connectivity as the ideal of pure communication where individuals can share their thoughts with others without the constraints of the physical body, resembling angelic discussions (p.).

307). The concept of pure communication can be seen as the convergence of the self and others in an attempt to establish an ideal social connection. Time and distance, in addition to differences (i.e., distinctiveness), are also barriers to this ideal connection. According to Peters (1999), overcoming these obstacles became a driving force behind the advancement of modern communication technologies, including the telephone. In fact, as early as 1641, Bishop John Wilkins anticipated telecommunications and expressed a desire for privacy and speed in long-distance communication (Peters: 1999).

The origins of ageless contact and Apparatgeist can be traced to specific ideals. The idea of Apparatgeist, which highlights pure communication, can provide a framework for understanding how the design and function of mobile phones are interconnected. The notion of pure communication closely aligns with the expressive use of mobile phones by individuals. It can be argued that people who utilize their mobile phones to exchange emotions and ideas with others idealize a seamless social connection. As a result, those who employ their mobile phones in this expressive manner view the technology not as a barrier between themselves and others but rather as a means to bridge the gap and achieve pure communication. In fact, some users even perceive their mobile phones as an extension of themselves. This perspective blurs the distinction between subject and object to such an extent that the mobile phone is seen both as a tool for connection and a reflection of personal style.

To trial this outlook, a

survey on the gendered use of mobile phones could open up new avenues of societal research. Practice theory, as exemplified by writers such as Bourdieu, Giddens, Foucault, Garfinkel, Latour, Taylor, and others, is a type of cultural theory. Modern societal theory has developed three distinct forms of explaining action and societal order since its development with Scots moral doctrine in the late 18th century. The first form of explanation, which originated from the utilitarianists and continues in Rational Choice Theory today, is a purpose-oriented theory of action. The second form, presented by Durkheim and Parsons as the proper view of sociology, is a norm-oriented theory of action. Although these two classical social-theoretical perspectives are seen as opposing options, they have both been challenged by a third form that emerged from the 'culturalist' revolutions in 20th-century societal doctrine. These 'cultural theories' are primarily rooted in structural linguistics and semiologies, phenomenology and hermeneutics, and Wittgensteinian language game theory.

Influenced by structural linguistics, cultural theories in the societal scientific disciplines span from Claude Levi-Strauss to Michel Foucault and Pierre Bourdieu. Influenced by phenomenology and hermeneutics, they encompass Alfred Schutz, Harold Garfinkel and, in a specific manner, Niklas Luhmann. In the aftermath of Wittgensteinian doctrine, they include the works of Jurgen Habermas and Anthony Giddens. Practice theory does not place the societal in mental qualities or in discourse or interaction. Instead, it places the societal in 'practices' and treats practices as the 'smallest unit' of societal analysis. The researcher adopts a socio-centric viewpoint, examining how societal and cultural conditions shape individual needs that, in turn, define the use of technology. Therefore, the first theoretical perspective employed in this thesis is

the social construction of technology framework (SCOT). This framework suggests that the socio-cultural environment influences the use of technology. Thus, understanding the socio-cultural environment in which technology is embedded is crucial to comprehending its usage (Bijker, 2001).

Several researchers have investigated the use of cell phones in different cultural settings using the SCOT model. Campbell and Russo (2003) conducted a study with 194 American adults, 60% female and 40% male, who were mobile phone users. They examined the perceptions and usage of cell phones among participants using a social-constructivist perspective. The authors predicted that participants' perceptions and usage of cell phones would be similar among individuals belonging to the same personal communication network (PCN) compared to those outside of it.

David (2007) also applied the SCOT model to study the usage of cell phones by large women in India. Her study suggested that cell phone usage reinforced traditional gender roles expected from Indian women. Both studies demonstrate that the use of technologies such as cell phones is influenced by the socio-cultural environment and rules that shape individuals' lives.

Similarly, a study conducted by Mesch and Talmud in 2008 explored how civilization influenced the use of communication technologies among Jewish and Arab teenagers in Israel. Unlike Europe and America, there is a lack of gendered diffusion in mobile communication in the Asian region. However, the traditional gendered diffusion in mobile usage persists in most of the Asia-Pacific compared to Europe and America. Contrary to the past, where there was a gender gap in the use of mobile technologies, there has been an increase in the acceptance and adoption of these technologies among females, catching up with or even

surpassing males. Although the degree of disparity varies, with men still being more interested in technology, there is a general trend of an increasing number of female users observed worldwide.

Additionally, the utility functions of men and women also differ in terms of acceptance and use. According to Castells et al. (2004), this results in different ways of adopting and benefiting from these functions. A study conducted for 'Telecom Australia' revealed that telephone usage had a significant impact, serving as a form of emotional support. For women, being able to communicate with female family members and friends over the phone was an important part of their support network. It greatly contributed to their overall well-being, sense of security, and self-esteem. The study suggested that the social support system facilitated by telephone usage had crucial implications for the country (Moyal, 1989). The increasing popularity of mobile phones worldwide, especially among young people, has attracted the attention of academic researchers.

In addition to academic journals that provide access to such studies, there are several anthologies and book length studies on the topic in recent years. In their book Perpetual Contact (2002), Katz and Aakhus compiled various studies from 10 different cultures to investigate how mobile technologies are shaping human life across different societies. Similarly, in Thumb Culture (2005), Glotz, Bertschi, and Locke gathered research conducted in multiple countries to examine the impact of mobile phones on users' lives and on society as a whole. Goggin conducted a comprehensive study titled Cell Phone Culture (2006), in which he explored the cultural and social implications of mobile phones using an interdisciplinary approach. Most recently, Katz edited Handbook of Mobile Communication Studies

(2008) to gain an understanding of the social effects of mobile technology around the world.

Further studies on mobile phones have investigated two different aspects of technology - one related to their acceptance and another related to their usage. Researchers studying the acceptance of technology are primarily concerned with the issues of digital divide and analyze the factors that may be responsible for their acceptance. Researchers analyzing the usage of mobile phones are primarily concerned with the individual and social reasons affecting their usage and the individual and social effects of their usage. Since this thesis focuses on the usage of mobile phones, only those studies have been selected for discussion here that provide information about the usage of mobile phones by young people. In India, Wei (2007) and David (2007) conducted extensive studies to examine mobile phone use among adult women and working young adults.

David (2007) conducted a mixed methods study including interviews, cell phone surveys with Indian women aged 21 and older, and qualitative analysis of cell phone advertisements in India. In August 2003 and May 2004, David conducted 40 in-person and 7 phone interviews with Indian women in both India and the United States, selected through a snowball sampling technique. In the second phase, David conducted a survey in September 2006 with 182 cell phone users, consisting of 78 females and 104 males. The participants were selected using a cluster sampling process, to evaluate gender differences regarding cell phone usage. The findings from the qualitative interviews revealed that women perceived their cell phones as a "electronic tether" or a "medium of control", feeling tied to household responsibilities even when they were away from

home. Furthermore, the study indicated that while women used cell phones for social purposes like contacting family, their husbands primarily used them for professional reasons. This suggests that cell phone usage perpetuates traditional gender stereotypes that place expectations on women to prioritize household responsibilities.

The study also found that women were depicted in a stereotypical manner in cellphone advertisements. These advertisements showed women using their cellphones for social purposes and responsibilities. Wei (2007) conducted a lengthy study on the use of cellphones by young people to support intimate and romantic relationships in Bangalore, India. Wei conducted qualitative interviews with 20 young urban middle-class professionals aged 18-30, including 16 males and 4 females. In addition, Wei asked the participants to complete paper-and-pencil questionnaires and keep a mobile journal using the log form for four days.

The study showed that participants utilized mobile phones to support and maintain romantic relationships, particularly when they were physically or culturally separated. Mobile phones served more than just scheduling meetings; they were used for extended conversations. Emotions were expressed through mobile phones, and gestures such as angrily switching off phones or saving text messages for sentimental reasons were also observed. Comparisons across different cultures and locations revealed that young people primarily use mobile phones for interpersonal communication through voice calls and text messaging. They acquire cell phones for various interpersonal communication purposes like safety, emergencies, coordination, contacting parents, and social interaction with peers.

The studies also indicate that cell phones are used for various purposes according to different age groups. These purposes include using cell phones as fashion statements or symbols of status, managing personal photos, and using them as personal devices to maintain

privacy and form relationships outside of parental control. In addition, the next section of the text discusses studies on the use of mobile phones as media devices. One significant study in this area was conducted by Priyanka Matanhelia as part of her Ph.D. research titled 'Mobile Phone Use by Young Adults in India: A Case Study' (2010). Matanhelia's study focused on two cities, Mumbai and Kanpur. Her findings revealed gender differences in mobile phone usage, stating that "in Kanpur, males and females had different reasons for acquiring cell phones."

A greater percentage of males (83.2%) compared to females (69.7%) expressed that emergency demand was an important reason. However, a larger percentage of females than males indicated that safety (males 62.6%; females 80.2%) and calling friends (females 89.1%; males 81.8%) were important reasons. In Mumbai as well, a higher percentage of females (91.6%) than males (81%) considered calling friends an important reason for acquiring cell phones. This suggests that calling friends was a more significant reason for females than males across cities. The significant difference was confirmed through chi-square tests for significance testing.

'This research also reveals the type of information, indicating that in Mumbai, a majority of young people accessed entertainment news. However, there were more females than males accessing information on fashion and current events, while more males than females accessed sports news. In Kanpur, a higher percentage of males than females considered music players, radios, video-recording, and television as important media features in their cell phones. This study also mentions that within cities, there were more gender disparities in the perception and usage of cell phones for social image in Mumbai compared to Kanpur. It

is interesting to note from this study that across cities, there were gender differences in the use of cell phones for friendships.'

Across cities, there was a higher proportion of males using cell phones for organizing plans with friends compared to females. However, in Mumbai, there were no significant gender differences in cell phone usage for friendly relationships. In Kanpur, on the other hand, more males than females used cell phones to organize plans with friends. This suggests that all groups had similar cell phone usage patterns for friendly relationships, but there were relatively fewer females in Kanpur using cell phones for organizing plans when compared to other groups. This could be due to the restrictive regulations for females in Kanpur, which limited their ability to travel and socialize with friends. Consequently, they relied less on cell phones for organizing plans. Therefore, it can be concluded that variations in the level of globalized urban civilization contribute to gender-based differences in mobile phone usage within Indian society.

It also has the ability to enforce paternal surveillance and control. The aforementioned studies indicate that the investigation of mobile phone usage among youth is a growing area of research among scholars. These studies have examined various issues concerning the use of mobile phones by young people worldwide. For instance, academic research has shown that young people acquire and utilize mobile phones for various reasons and needs related to communication, media, and age. For example, their communication needs include using mobile phones for safety and emergencies, coordinating activities, contacting parents, and socializing with peers.

The studies also indicate that adolescents and young adults utilize cell phones as a means to express their

personal identity, using them as fashion accessories, maintaining existing friendships, developing virtual relationships, supporting romantic relationships, maintaining privacy, and gaining independence from parents, particularly in forming friendships outside parental surveillance. Recent studies on the use of mobile phones for media-related purposes suggest that they are used to access news and for personal entertainment through photography. Although these issues have been examined in academic contexts, they have not been explored in the Indian context, despite India having the second largest population of mobile phone subscribers worldwide. This study aims to investigate these issues specifically within the Indian context by analyzing the utilization of mobile phones by young individuals. Furthermore, although there are a few studies that provide information on mobile phone usage in India, all of them have focused on populations in the southern region of the country, thus presenting an incomplete perspective.

India is a vast country and the civilizations in the northern and southern parts of India are significantly different. Therefore, it is important to understand if mobile phone use varies across regions. It is crucial to examine the similarities and differences in mobile phone use among young people in different parts of India. Additionally, a study conducted by David (2007) revealed that the patriarchal culture in India influences how males and females use mobile phones. However, David (2007) and Matanhelia (2010) examined gender differences among large populations, with most of their samples consisting of married couples. Studies conducted on younger populations have shown that mobile phone use varies according to the age group of the users.

It is crucial to analyze if there are gender differences in mobile phone usage across age groups. The various

discussions on identity and social relationships challenge the idea that 'youth' and technology are necessarily associated, highlighting the diverse economic, gender, cultural, and social values that different groups of young people attribute to mobile phones. Understanding the gender aspects of information and communication technology (ICT) usage is important because a negative trend could jeopardize gender equality in a society driven by information and knowledge. It is especially important to focus on young people. Most studies on gender issues related to ICT and mobile phone use have primarily focused on empirical trade-related situations. Since the symbolic interactionist tradition, sociological self-reflection has emphasized the role of communication and conversation in social relationships.

In contemporary society, mobile phones have become a prevalent tool for information and communication, contributing to a transformation in societal communication. Sociologists have attempted to establish a sociology dedicated to studying mobile phones in advanced industrialized societies. However, there is a lack of significant research regarding this topic in our own society. Additionally, the significance of communication and gender identity is increasing in today's global society. Judith Butler (1990) argues in her book Gender Trouble that gender is constantly changing and never fixed.

''Given this assumption, it is important for feminist scholars to examine not only existing categories of gender, as they have been defined throughout history or as they currently exist, but also how they can be redefined and transformed through the impact of increasingly prevalent communication technologies. Conversely, educated young individuals can be seen as representatives of evolving social and cultural patterns in our globalized society. In the context of our present-day society, sociological research that focuses on communication technologies, gender, and youth may be

considered essential."

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