GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Title of Paper:
Calling Home: A case study of mobile phone and social-network-driven interpersonal communications and mass media consumption in the United Arab Emirates.
Paper Proposal Text :

The United Arab Emirates holds the qualified status of being transcultural, bringing together numerous nationalities and ethnic groups and a fascinating array of experiences and individuals from varied walks of life.

This diversity interacts and communicates intra-nationally, and internationally using some of the most sophisticated forms of electronically mediated communication available in the G.C.C. area. Some of this electronically media communication is facilitated by mobile phones and social networks and in turn have influenced media consumption and interpersonal communication amongst national and expatriate communities in the United Arab Emirates.

Amongst diaspora and expatriate networks we see an increased reliance on mediated networks to communicate within interpersonal networks in the countries, and access more localised news media and strengthen or reinforce network connections with their home networks, as well as extend their networks within the community of other expat residents.

As for nationals, we them increasingly using these networks to communicate internally within their own community, continually accessing and sharing news pieces that highlight issues affecting the community as it develops in a dominantly expatriate environment. These mediated networks played a major role in solidifying the community’s cohesion and reinforcing the group identity of nationals.

Discussions of networks and mediated communication within this research will be built up from the theoretical framework of the Actor-Network Theory [1]. The theory allows us to understand the dynamic interaction of social construction of technology, and the inherent capabilities of the technology. In light of the pervasive use of the mobile phone in the United Arab Emirates, the research will try to assess with a nuanced approach, the nature of mobile communication and its adoption and domestication [2] into different cultural spaces.


This case study will be employing the mixed-methods approach. Two methods will be employed, namely semi-structured interviews, and content analysis. While semi-structured interviews will provide the context for our research and deeper insights, content analysis will hope to elicit the value-based motivations and perceptions behind such interpersonal communications and interaction within networks.

These methodologies that we would employ would help us capture UAE population demographics, and use the outcome to analyse how the different communities (National v. Expatriate) have adopted and used mobile phones to maintain networks of communication.

Research limitations/implications

The research identifies several limitations that would impede the outcomes of the research. These limitations are the challenge to complete the scope of the research within the given time scale, the size of sampling taken from the population, and the numerous languages to account for in analysing the richness of the dynamics of adoption within different communities and cultural groups. Additionally, conscious effort will be taken to maintain discretion around individuals who have not been naturalised. This said the research would aim to build as coherent a picture as is possible, while paving the way for further developments in the near future.


Interpersonal communication driven by the mobile phone amongst communities has largely been unexplored from a sociological perspective in the MENA region. Additionally, a deepening point of interest focuses on patterns of communication amongst national and expatriate communities.

The main contributions of this study are theoretical and heuristic; articulating causal mechanisms contributing to the nature and dynamics of electronically mediated interpersonal communication networks and patterns of communication.

A dataset that is not contrived to a very specific research question gives way to further unexplored questions on various social realities including questions of youth, gender roles, class and family units in urban or rural environments that are strongly influenced by methods of electronically mediated devices and networks.

[1] Latour, B. (1999). On Recalling ANT. In J. Law and J. Hassard (Eds.) Actor Network and After. Oxford., Blackwell and the Sociological Review: 15-25.
[2] Silverstone, Roger, Hirsch, Eric (Eds.) (1992). Consuming Technologies : Media and information in domestic spaces. London/New York: Routledge