Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Mobile Phone Cultures

ENGL 295.402
crosslisted as: ARTH 293, CIMS 295, COML 295
instructor(s):
Monday 2-5:00pm
fulfills requirements:
Sector 1: Theory and Poetics of the Standard Major
Sector 2: Difference and Diaspora of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major
Elective Seminar of the Standard Major

Over the years, the mobile phone ceased to be just an extension of the landline telephone as a range of locative, social and networked media converged into it. Thus, the complicated mobile device that scholars research today might more appositely be termed “mobile media” rather than just “mobile phone.” And yet, particular histories and futures of telephone, including proto-skype technologies like videophone, are elided in the shift of nomenclature from mobile phone to mobile media. Even as they have global impact, mobile media technologies influence and are influenced by socio-cultural factors in specific places, and so mobile media cultures are both global and local at the same time.

In this course, we will be studying the revolutions in youth culture, desires, gender norms, and aspirations that are emerging as new hardware, apps, and internet services are being added to mobile media. Some of the questions we will be addressing are: In countries like India and Brazil, how are WhatsApp and viral spread of political propaganda connected? How has mobile internet influenced streaming video cultures in different parts of the world, and how has the rise of video and live streaming apps like TikTok and Bigo Live redefined attention spans, content creation, and influencer marketing? What are the affordances of mobile phones amidst Covid-19 circumstances? In what ways have memory cards changed the way people listen to and access “pirated” music? How have mobile phone apps and related digital infrastructures reconfigured the "platform economy," including the "gig economy"? How have social media transformed socialities as ephemeral snaps and swiped intimacies become part of the “new” phone cultures? Assignments will include using mobile phones to create Instagram curations as well as a written final paper (about 2000 words).