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Updated 9:30 AM April 2, 2007




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Cross-cultural cell phone study reveals similarities

The cultures may differ, but young adults use cell phones for similar reasons: to coordinate plans, maintain social relations and as a fashion statement, new University research shows.

A U-M study compared the similarities and differences of perceptions and uses of cell phones among college students of various cultures.

"The findings indicate that people throughout the world are dealing with some similar social changes and adjusting to them frequently in similar ways," says Scott Campbell, the study's author and an assistant professor in the Department of Communication Studies. The study appears in the April issue of New Media & Society.

A sample of college students from Hawaii, Japan, Sweden, Taiwan and the United States mainland completed the cell phone survey, which focused on five factors: perceptions of the handset as a fashion; attitudes about cell phone use in public settings; and use of the technology for security, logistical coordination and expressive communication.

The cross-cultural comparisons revealed many more similarities than differences in how participants in the study thought about and used their cell phones. Still, there were some notable differences. For example, respondents from the U.S. mainland and Hawaii reported more cell phone use for security purposes than did those from Sweden, and participants from Hawaii and Sweden reported greater tolerance of cell phone use in public than did participants from Japan.

While the findings offer some insights to cell phone use, Campbell noted that additional research is needed to better understand the devices' use in distinctive cultural environments. This study is part of exploratory research meant to lay the groundwork for future studies with more representative samples, Campbell says.

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