Gendering talk, commodifying surveillance – SCMS presentation

T-mobile “biggest talkers” commercial

It seems all my posts have been about conferences and presentations lately, but that seems to be what spring semester is like for me. This past week I was in Seattle for the Society for Cinema & Media Studies (SCMS) conference.

I presented work on how cell phone service providers are constructing girlhood, families, and technology. My primary argument is that cell phones largely been constructed in gendered ways that commodify sociality and talk. However, with the rapid adoption of smartphones, family plans are now marketed based on data plans instead of talk/text plans. Early evidence suggests there is a shift away from constructing the phone as technologies for young people, and now they are being marketed equally to adults within the family (who are just as likely to use data).

Sprint Family Locator

I also demonstrate the ways in which cell phone service providers have contributed to the normalization, legitimization, and commodification of surveillance. This is consistent with larger societal trends that reveal that phones are simultaneously constructed as tools of safety and risk for young people. The service providers have found ways to capitalize upon the fears and sell upgraded services that facilitate constant surveillance.

You can check out my slides here for an overview of the presentation, which includes clips and images from my sample of 45 cell phone service provider commercials in the United States from 2005-2014.

Additionally, I was invited to be a blogger for the SCMS conference. I posted two entries to the official conference site that you can read here: “Long time follower, first time caller” and “When my brain gets too full.

I’m working on a larger project about the surveillance and commodification of young people’s use of technology – if you have any feedback or suggestions, I’d love to hear it.

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