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Cell Phone Studies


man at table with cell phoneAs a sort of response to these public concerns, in the last decade researchers have been treating mobile, wireless devices and the specific literacies they enable with increasing attention. Kathleen Blake Yancey has commented on texting-as-writing, responding to Naomi Baron’s previously mentioned concerns, explaining her desire to see students made more aware of “code-switching,” making an analogy to wearing flip-flops: “There’s nothing wrong with flip-flops, worn at the appropriate time in an appropriate way. But soccer players don’t wear flip-flops in a game” (Wong Briggs, 2007). Code-switching calls upon students to understand the rhetorical context for their particular composing scenario—admittedly a much more complex task than simply enforcing a rote “correctness” and more in-line with Stuart Selber’s (2004) description of rhetorical literacy and Adam Banks’s (2006) articulation of critical and transformative access.

Rhetoric and composition scholars have also been identifying how the literacies often enabled by cell phones can be integrated into college-level courses and advanced into critical thinking and writing abilities. Texting (and other short-form writing activities) has been shown to help students understand the usefulness of note-taking as invention (McNely, 2011), browsing and the attention to visual representation benefits students in recognizing ethos when performing Web-based research (Enos & Borrowman, 2001), search queries introduce students to database searches and information literacy (Maid & D’Angelo, 2013), and social networking assists students in developing critical thinking with regard to identity formation, social issues, and privacy concerns (Vie, 2008; Maranto & Barton, 2010). Each of these activities is a popular concern of information literacy and contributes to the understanding our students have of audience, research, and identity.

Recent scholarship has also addressed the role of mobile technologies as they relate to a host of pedagogical, political, and ethical concerns. Much of this research, with the laudable goal of being as inclusive to as many technologies as possible, has addressed online webware, wireless computing, and short message composing as it exists on a range of devices. This range of work is impressive, as researchers have studied intentional pedagogy design (Kimme Hea, 2009), classroom design (Dean et al., 2004; Meeks, 2004; Zoetewey, 2004), etiquette (Millar, 2009), privacy and public rhetoric (Rice, 2008), marketing (Moeller, 2004), advertising (Zoetewey & Sullivan, 2008; Kitalong, 2009), aesthetics and identity (Zoetewey, 2010), and the use of PDAs at work (Swarts, 2007, 2008; Spinuzzi, 2009). Much of this work has focused on mobile technology more generally, however, as cell phones themselves have yet to receive a great deal of attention in composition scholarship—at least compared to their widespread popularity.