Rich Ling (Telenor)

Mobile communication and the emancipation of teens


The explosive growth and intense use of mobile telephony among teens is well documented. This group has, in many countries, configured the way in which mobile communication is used and the way that it has entered into the culture. While the statistics of ownership and use tell a part of the story, they do not give the whole picture. They do not really let us understand why mobile communication has been adopted and used so extensively by this group. A major reason for this is that it plays into the emancipation of the teens. At a critical point in their lives, at the point where teens are in the process of establishing an independent identity, finding friends and lovers and learning how to deal with the exigencies of adult life, the mobile phone provides a form of personal communication that the teen controls. It provides direct access to peers and allows for coordination, phatic interaction and serves as a type of safety cord. In addition it adds flexibility to the coordination efforts
within the family. This paper will examine these issues and lay out how the mobile telephone has become an integral part of teen emancipation in many cultures.

Rich Ling is a sociologist at Telenor’s research institute located near Oslo, Norway and he is also the Pohs visiting professor of communication studies at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He also the author of the recently published book on the social consequences of mobile telephony entitled The Mobile Connection: The cell phone's impact
on society and along with Per E. Pederson the editor of the book Mobile Communications: Renegotiation of the Social Sphere and he is in the process of writing a book entitled Mediated ritual interaction.

He received his Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Colorado, Boulder in his native US. Upon completion of his doctorate, he taught at the University of Wyoming in Laramie before coming to Norway on a Marshall Foundation grant. Since that time he has worked at the Gruppen for Ressursstudier (The resource study group) and he has been a partner in a consulting firm, Ressurskonsult, which focused on studies of energy, technology and society. For the past ten years, he has worked at Telenor R&D and has been active in researching issues associated with new information communication technology and society with a particular focus on mobile telephony. He has led projects in Norway and
participated in projects at the European level.

Ling has published numerous articles, held posts at and lectured at universities in Europe and the US and has participated in academic conferences in Europe, Asia and in the US. He has been responsible for organizing scholarly meetings and editing both academic journals and proceedings from academic conferences. He has received recognition as an
outstanding scholar from Rutgers University. Along with Scott Campbell he is the editor of The Mobile Communication Research Annual and he is an associate editor for The Information Society. His analysis has appeared in Norwegian newspapers. He has been interviewed on The Discovery Channel and Norwegian TV as well as for periodicals such as
the New York Times, Wired, Der Speigel, Newsweek, Época (Brazil) and the Toronto Globe and Mail.

Stuart Cunningham