05 August 2010

When young people use voice

Much of my own research and that of others, such as Stefana Broadbent, has mapped out the sharing of communication across different channels and, in particular, the migration of much that was previously communicated by voice to text channels, particularly among young people. In Wired last week, Clive Thompson wrote on 'the death of the phone call', commenting that his phone bills were now much 'smaller', i.e. shorter in length, as fewer calls were itemised.

So it was interesting to see, in contrast, results of a survey by Lisa Campbell Salazar, of young people involved in political activism (e.g. environment, human rights or peace campaigns). Survey participants made heavy use of voice communication. The tasks they described using their phones for were to: 'share their message globally, mobilize protests, fundraise, educate their peers and spread solidarity'.

Not too much detail of the survey itself so it's hard to unpick this. And results were combined across several countries so we don't know how different cultural traditions are contributing to choice of channel. All these caveats aside, the finding fits with my characterisation of voice as having more 'heat' than the relative coolness of asynchronous channels such as SMS or email, or text channels where one can control one's availability. And hence it's the channel people resort to when they need to persuade, negotiate in detail, and get things done.

[Thanks to Pat Kane for the Broadbent reference, to Kristina Langhein for the Thompson reference; Salazar research via Putting People First]

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