Unwrapping Presence: The Impact of Cell Phones on Face-to-Face Conversations
Turner, Jeanine W
Ubiquitous digital devices such as cell-phones have made it easier for people to multicommunicate, or participate in multiple conversations at once. While these devices have enhanced the multicommunicative environment, they have also threatened to take away from some of the key interpersonal elements of face-to-face (FtF) conversation, such as the ability to listen and pay attention. While un-interrupted FtF conversation provides the opportunity for individuals to form closer bonds of intimacy with their conversation partner, the presence of cell-phones within such interactions now creates a challenge where individuals must compete for the attention and presence of their partner. The theory of attentional social presence proposes that communicators attempt to secure the attention of their conversation partner through four types of presence: budgeted, entitled, competitive, and invitational social presence. Each type of social presence contains a different focus on cell-phone use and a specific set of motivations based off of a desired personal and relational outcome. Grounded in the theory of attentional social presence, this thesis aims to better understand how the Millennial generation navigates the four types of presence within FtF conversations, paying close attention to the relational outcomes that each presence type provides. The data collected from 23 semi-structured interviews with participants aged 18-36 suggests that one’s decision to use a certain type of attentional social presence is highly dependent on contextual factors such as relational closeness, number of conversational partners, and the topic of the conversation.
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