About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Mobile Professor

One thing that #acwrimo has done is to remind me to blog my research ideas and insights as I'm developing them. With that in mind, I've decided to talk about some new research I am considering. Many of the ideas are still in the early stages, but the more I read and participate in online groups, the more I'm convinced this is research that needs to be done.

The Mobile Adjunct

Currently, I am involved in #adjunctchat, a community that meets on twitter at Tuesdays at 4:00 PM, New York time. This is open to anyone in the world who is interested in contingent faculty issues, either as a researcher, an administrator, faculty friend of contingent instructors, or (of course) an instructor that works in a temporary position, full-time or part-time, long-term contract or short-term contract, for one university or multiple, by choice or by necessity.

Recently, we had one of our followers suggest that we discuss online contingent faculty issues. We also have discussed controlling the adjunct's work environment. In many cases, adjuncts either share office space, don't have office space, or work in a virtual office, connecting with colleagues, administrators, or students online.

My own officemate teaches at two different universities, resulting in managing her resources, physical and virtual, between two distinct university cultures (one school is a large public research university with a high level of diversity, the other is a world renowned technical university with many international students, but little diversity). At times, there have been some comical mix ups as she has arrived at school with the wrong resources for the class she is about to teach. She is not as open to new technology, but she does rely on a netbook to access student records, courses resources, and student communication.

The Personal Communication Society

Yesterday, while reading an article I am writing for contribution to a book a colleague is working on, I came across Campbell and Park's (2008) idea of personal mobile communication. They point out that research indicates that people communicating using mobile devices in a public place, in fact don't necessarily perceive the conversation private (they are in a public place), but rather as personal.

This distinction is important because people become uncomfortable if they are forced to hear a personal conversation in a public place, trying not to ease drop or infringe on those who are in the middle of a personal conversation in a public place. In addition, Rettie's (2008) research suggests that there are different ways in which devises are used depending on the level of intimacy between people using mobile devises. The deeper level of intimacy, the more likely communication in a public space and time will be disguised.

In other words, communication perceived as deeply personal can still be conducted in public spaces, but some type of code will be used to allow for personal interaction (e.g. teens using texting and abbreviations when parents or other friends are in the room). There may also be signals given that an interaction should be conducted in private (i.e. change in location or devise) in which the interaction may not be personal. An example of this would be taking a business call in a restaurant.

By separating personal from private, I was able to understand a phenomenon my students and I noticed last year. My students interacted on facebook differently depending on what devise they used. While the privacy settings were the same for computer and mobile technology, they were more familiar (slang, communicated on topics in a way that was less socially acceptable, swearing)on mobile devises than when they communicated on a desk top computer.

It is possible that young adults perceive mobile technology, as Campbell and Park suggest, as more personal, resulting in a more intimate register. This would also explain the dichotomy between published incidences of sexting, uploading of socially unaccepted behavior on youtube, and cyberbullying against Pew's findings that American youth are concerned about their privacy. Pew pointed out this dichotomy in their report saying to teens managed their privacy while also sharing more personal information online.

While I have been looking for data (primary research reports and journal articles) on mobile technology use that supports Campbell and Park's theory, Rettie is the only one that I have found so far that begins to address this dichotomy. One reason is that it may be difficult to operationalize private and personal.

Researching the Mobile Professor

So, combining my interest in contingent and temporary employees, and my current interest in mobile technology, I have decided to create a research agenda looking at mobile devise use of adjuncts/contingent faculty. My first research will be on private, public, and personal in mobile communications. This is especially important for adjunct faculty who may have to use their own personal devises to communicate with students, and at the same time have federal laws that require their interactions be private. However, faculty that do not have private physical spaces to interact with students will need to carve out a public space that allows for personal interaction or personal interaction that needs to be conducted in private spaces such as a car or online space.

Part of the conditions that add (or negatively impact) an adjunct is his or her social network. Therefore, it would be interesting to understand what social networks adjuncts create and how they maintain them. For example, now with mobile technology, adjuncts can create more permanent relationships with their students without a close intimacy. Likewise, as an adjunct leaves a position for a semester, are they better able to maintain professional relationships with administrators? With the potential of mobile technology creating sociomental communities (Chayko, 2007), why aren't adjuncts better socialized within departments or the universities? Are adjuncts now being heard because they are creating sociomental communities because they are being forced to interact with mobile devices? Related to this would be determining how adjuncts find each other (which has been a problem with unionizing specific campuses).

By starting with these questions in looking at contingent faculty and mobile technology, I will be able to then extend this research into all types of temporary and/or contingent workers including consultants (private and government), emergency workers (including local government, hospital, utility, national guard, first responders), temporary or seasonal workers, and per diam workers (nurses, teachers, laborers).


Mary Chayko (2007). The portable community: envisioning and examining mobile social connectedness. International Journal of Web Based Communities, 3 (4), 373-385.

Scott W. Campbell and Jong Jin Park (2008). Social Implications of Mobile Telephony: The Rise of Personal Communication Society. Sociology Compass, 2 (2) 371-387.

Ruth Rettie (2008). Mobile Phones as Network Capital: Facilitating Connections. Mobilities, 3(2), 291-311.

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