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Jan 24
1:00 pm - 2:30 pm

Imagining 5G: Social shaping prior to adoption through mass and social media narratives

140 Saint George Street
Toronto, ON
M5S 3G6

Date: Friday, Jan 24
Time: 1:10 – 2:30
Location: iSchool, BL 728

Scott W. Campbell
Department of Communication and Media, University of Michigan

This project examines narratives in mass and social media that set the stage for the next generation (5G) of technological infrastructure supporting the digital flows of information, communication, and mobility. Through reduced latency and greater digital capacity, the 5G infrastructure will support new forms of mobile communication in everyday life with features such as virtual reality, augmented reality, live 3D holograms, and others. 5G will also be used to connect objects for driverless transportation, automating tasks, surveillance, environmental monitoring, and many other aspects of the internet of things. At the time of this writing, access to the 5G infrastructure is largely unavailable. Yet, the present media environment is saturated with messages about the technology’s products, networks, services, and players. This research examines those messages because they have the capacity to shape perceptions, uses, and consequences of 5G technology before it is even available for adoption.

Drawing from domestication and computational grounded theory, this project identifies overarching topics as well as more nuanced themes about 5G in advertisements, news articles, and social media posts. For comparative purposes, we examine these narratives in the contexts of China and the US. These markets are both interesting and useful because of their explicit competition for global leadership in the 5G marketplace prior to its rollout. They also represent important differences with regard to commercial, regulatory, and cultural conditions, allowing us to go beyond an isolated case study. Details regarding theory and methods and preliminary findings will be shared and discussed during this event.

Scott W. Campbell, PhD is the Pohs Endowed Professor of Telecommunications in the Department of Communication and Media at the University of Michigan. His scholarship explains the social meanings, uses, and consequences of mobile communication, and it commonly bridges the traditions of media psychology and political communication. Before joining Michigan, Professor Campbell spent three years on faculty at Hawaii Pacific University. Prior to his academic life, he worked at Sprint PCS where he helped launch the first national digital mobile network in the United States.

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