The Mobiles: social evolution in a wireless society is the latest report from Context-Based Research Group. A résumé by Amy Jo Kim has appeared in Many2Many.
In this study, ethnographic researchers looked at how mobile behavior had changed worldwide from 2000-2002, across a variety of ages (teens, young adults, older adults) and locations (Australia, China, Italy, Sweden, Brazil, and the US). One of their conclusions is that wireless communication changes the nature of how relationships and community are created and maintained - AND that these social patterns are tied into how deeply each person has adopted a ‘mobile lifestyle.’
Amy Jo Kim goes on to offer this excellent 'brief summary of the “Mobile LifeStyle Stages” and associated social patterns from this report':
Stage 1) Wireless Why? (low awareness / low integration)
These people recognize that a mobile lifestyle exists, but they haven’t decided whether or not they want to be part of it. They haven’t taken the time or don’t see the need to integrate wireless into their everyday lives and don’t really think much about that either. Socially, Stage 1 people use a cellphone to stay in touch with “intimates” (e.g. a spouse, family member or close friend) but don’t do much time-shifting or develop new social patterns - they map their existing social patterns onto their wireless devices.
Stage 2) The Gadgeteers (high awareness / low integration)
These people are fascinated with the gadgets, the devices of wireless - but they haven’t yet smoothly integrated their devices into their lives. They’re made the decisions to opt into the mobile lifestyle, have only just begun to actually change their behavior. Socially, a Stage 2 person might use a cellphone to make and confirm last-minute plans, but is worried about giving up face-to-face contact in favor of mobile conversations.
Stage 3) The Almost-There’s (high awareness / high integration)
This group’s mobile devices are highly integrated into their lives, but they’re still highly conscious of their presence. As they grow more comfortable with their mobile lifestyle, they will become less aware of their devices and will move on to the next stage of lifestyle development. Socially, Stage 3 people are now part of a virtual community that’s held together by mobile communications. Often, there’ a rush of excitement associated with building a large network of contacts. During this stage, people’s mobile connections expand rapidly, often including multiple shallow relationships.
Stage 4) The MOBILES (low awareness / high integration)
These people integrate wireless into their lives and don’t think much about it. They’ve had access to wireless devices for a number of years, and are at a life stage where they’re comfortable with themselves, their position, and how they choose to live their lives. Socially, Stage 4 people have moved past the rush of excitement brought on by mobile connections; they’re comforable with their mobile lifestyle, they’ve pruned their contact lists, and use it to deepen existing relationships and maintain a smaller, deeper network.
There is a downloadable PDF summary of this research here.