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Is (the study of) mobile phones old wine in a new bottle? A polemic on communication-based acculturation research

Rajiv George Aricat (Wee Kim Wee School of Communication & Information, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, Singapore)

Information Technology & People

ISSN: 0959-3845

Article publication date: 2 November 2015

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to critically analyze the discourses on migrant acculturation and migrants’ mobile phone communication, in order to examine the inclusiveness of communication-acculturation research in the recent years.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper draws on from 102 qualitative interviews (48 Malayali, 26 Bangla, 17 Tamil and 11 Telugu) for a larger research project that investigated the role of mobile phones in migrant acculturation in Singapore. Respondents were selected using a combination of purposive and snowball sampling methods. The respondents had been in Singapore for varying amount of time: from one month to 19 years.

Findings

The analysis of the discourses on migrant acculturation and mobile phone communication revealed that labor migrants were excluded on the basis of their temporary status and apprehensions on work productivity. The mobile usage prohibitions that existed in work sites were hinged on similar discourses that stereotyped the labor migrants. The emancipatory metaphor that has been at the center of research on migrants’ mobile phone usage and acculturation needs to be replaced with a critical discourse perspective.

Research limitations/implications

The data were originally collected for a research project that approached the phenomena of acculturation and mobile phone appropriation from a positivist perspective, whereas this paper analyzed the data to critically examine the discourses that supported the premise of the project itself. Due to this, the findings presented in this paper have limited scope for generalization.

Originality/value

The paper critiques the research trends in migrant acculturation and mobile phone communication and suggests a possible alternative that goes beyond the “transcendental teleology” that underpins discourse and practice.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The study was supported by grants from Strengthening Information Society Research Capacity Alliance (SIRCA) program, sponsored by Singapore Internet Research Centre (SiRC) and from Wee Kim Wee School of Communication & Information, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (Grant no: M4080857.060).

Citation

Aricat, R.G. (2015), "Is (the study of) mobile phones old wine in a new bottle? A polemic on communication-based acculturation research", Information Technology & People, Vol. 28 No. 4, pp. 806-824. https://doi.org/10.1108/ITP-09-2014-0223

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited