Desiring Mobiles, Desiring Education: Mobile Phones and Families in a Rural Chinese Town

Chapter
Part of the Mobile Communication in Asia: Local Insights, Global Implications book series (MCALIGI)

Abstract

This chapter draws on ethnographic data to examine the relationship between mobile communication technologies (especially mobile phones) and learning in a small rural town in North China. Building on a wide body of literature that emphasises the enduring importance of education within Chinese culture, this chapter demonstrates how contemporary attitudes towards learning become constructed and expressed through mobile phone use. The chapter illustrates how most rural parents regard mobile phones as having an adverse impact on their offspring’s academic achievement and are keen to limit their usage. Young people nevertheless continue to find ways of accessing and using mobile phones, including creatively appropriating such devices for their own (formal and informal) learning. The chapter calls for greater consideration of the multiple domains of society that such technologies cut across – including school, family and elsewhere – in order to expose the specific instances where mobile telecommunications interact with educational ideals.

Keywords

China Education Mobile phones Rural Family 

Notes

Acknowledgements

I am incredibly grateful to Elisabetta Costa, Nell Haynes, Daniel Miller, David Jobanputra, Razvan Nicolescu, Jolynna Sinanan, Juliano Spyer, Shriram Venkatraman, Sun Sun Lim and Xinyuan Wang who provided extensive comments on several draft versions of this chapter. I am particularly grateful to Ying Zhang, Zhixian Liu and Yinxue Li from Minzu University of China for their support throughout the fieldwork period. Thanks must go to the people of Anshan Town, especially the staff and students of the town’s middle school for their eagerness to help with this project. This research was funded by the European Research Council (ERC Project 2011-AdG-295486 SocNet).

References

  1. Akinnaso, F. N. (1992). Schooling, language and knowledge in literate and nonliterate societies. Comparative Studies in Society and History, 34(1), 68–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anagnost, A. (1997). Children and national transcendence in China. In K. G. Lieberthal, S. F. Lim, & E. P. Young (Eds.), Constructing China: The interaction of culture and economics (pp. 195222). Ann Arbour: Centre for Chinese Studies, University of Michigan.Google Scholar
  3. Bernard, H. R. (2006). Research methods in anthropology: Qualitative and quantitative approaches (4th ed.). Oxford: AltaMira Press.Google Scholar
  4. Borofsky, R. (1987). Making history: Pukapukan and anthropological constructions of knowledge. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Bray, F. (2013). Tools for virtuous action: Technology, skills and ordinary ethics. In C. Stafford (Ed.), Ordinary ethics in China (pp. 175–193). London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  6. China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC). (2014). Statistical report on internet development in China. http://www1.cnnic.cn/IDR/ReportDownloads/201404/U020140417607531610855.pdf Accessed 20 Oct 2012.
  7. Davis, F. D. (1989). Perceived usefulness, perceived ease of use, and user acceptance of information technology. MIS Quarterly, 13, 319–340.Google Scholar
  8. Flynn, B. (2003). Geography of the digital hearth. Information, Communication and Society, 6(4), 551–576.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Fong, V. L. (2004). Only hope: Coming of age under China’s one-child policy. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Fortunati, L. (2002). Italy: Stereotypes, true and false. In J. E. Katz & M. A. Aakhus (Eds.), Perpetual contact: Mobile communication, private talk, public performance (pp. 42–62). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gamble, J. (2003). Shanghai in transition: Changing perspectives and social contours of a Chinese metropolis. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  12. Green, N., & Haddon, L. (2009). Mobile communications: An introduction to new media. Oxford: Berg.Google Scholar
  13. Hau, K. T., & Salili, F. (1996). Achievement goals and causal attributions of Chinese students. In S. Lau (Ed.), Growing up the Chinese way (pp. 121–146). Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Horst, H. A., & Miller, D. (2006). The cell phone: An anthropology of communication. Oxford/New York: Berg.Google Scholar
  15. Ito, M. (2005). Mobile phones, Japanese youth, and the re-placement of social contact. In R. Ling & P. E. Pedersen (Eds.), Mobile communications: Renegotiation of the social sphere (pp. 131–148). London: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kipnis, A. B. (2011). Governing educational desire: Culture, politics, and schooling in China. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Lemor, A. M. R. (2006). Making a “home”. The domestication of information and communication technologies in single mothers’ households. In T. Berker, M. Hartmann, Y. Punie, & K. Ward (Eds.), Domestication of media and technologies (pp. 165–181). Maidenhead: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Li, W., & Li, Y. (2010). An analysis on social and cultural background of the resistance for China’s education reform and academic pressure. International Education Studies, 3(3), 211–215.Google Scholar
  19. Lim, S. S. (2008). Technology domestication in the Asian homestead: Comparing the experiences of middle class families in China and South Korea. East Asian Science, Technology and Society, 2(2), 189–209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Lim, S. S., & Soon, C. (2010). The influence of social and cultural factors on mothers’ domestication of household ICTs – Experiences of Chinese and Korean women. Telematics and Informatics, 27(3), 205–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Matsuda, M. (2005). Mobile communication and selective sociality. In M. Ito, D. Okabe, & M. Matsuda (Eds.), Personal, portable, pedestrian: Mobile phones in Japanese life (pp. 123–142). Cambridge, MA/London: MIT PressGoogle Scholar
  22. McDonald, T. N. (2013). Structures of hosting in a south-western Chinese town. Doctoral dissertation, UCL (University College London).Google Scholar
  23. McDonald, T. (2015). Affecting relations: Domesticating the internet in a south-western Chinese town. Information, Communication & Society, 18(1), 17–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Miller, D. (2001). The poverty of morality. Journal of Consumer Culture, 1(2), 225–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Miller, D., & Slater, D. (2000). The internet: An ethnographic approach. Oxford: Berg.Google Scholar
  26. Nielsen Company. (2013). The mobile consumer: A global snapshot. Retrieved from http://www.nielsen.com/content/dam/corporate/us/en/reports-downloads/2013%20Reports/Mobile-Consumer-Report-2013.pdf
  27. Pew Research Center. (2014). Emerging nations embrace internet, mobile technology. Retrieved from http://www.pewglobal.org/files/2014/02/Pew-Research-Center-Global-Attitudes-Project-Technology-Report-FINAL-February-13-20146.pdf
  28. Qiu, J. L. (2009). Working-class network society: Communication technology and the information have-less in urban China. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Rogers, E. M. (1995). Diffusion of innovations. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  30. Silverstone, R. (1994). Television and everyday life. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Silverstone, R., & Haddon, L. (1996). Design and the domestication of information and communication technologies: Technical change and everyday life. In R. Silverstone & R. Mansell (Eds.), Communication by design: The politics of information and communication technologies (pp. 44–74). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Silverstone, R., Morley, D., Dahlberg, A., & Livingstone, S. (1989). Families, technologies and consumption: The household and information and communication technologies. CRICT discussion paper. Uxbridge: Centre for Research into Innovation, Culture & Technology.Google Scholar
  33. Silverstone, R., Hirsch, E., & Morley, D. (1992). Information and communication technologies and the moral economy of the household. In R. Silverstone & E. Hirsch (Eds.), Consuming technologies: Media and information in domestic spaces (pp. 15–31). London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Sperber, D., & Wilson, D. (1995). Relevance: Communication and cognition. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  35. Stafford, C. (2000a). Chinese patriliny and the cycles of Yang and Laiwang. In J. Carsten (Ed.), Cultures of relatedness: New approaches to the study of kinship (pp. 37–54). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Stafford, C. (2000b). Separation and reunion in modern China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Stevenson, H. W., & Lee, S.-Y. (1996). The academic achievement of Chinese students. In M. H. Bond (Ed.), The handbook of Chinese psychology (pp. 124–142). Hong Kong: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Turkle, S. (2011). Alone together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Hong KongHong KongHong Kong

Personalised recommendations