Cell Phone Hegemony
Before the widespread possession of cell phones, people used to be considered weird for “talking to themselves.” Now we just assume that people are on a cell phone when they are “talking to themselves.” Cell phones have managed to infiltrate our every existence, from classroom syllabi to walking down the street and most notably cell phone commercials. Upon making various observations across the University of Georgia campus one may wonder what it is that possesses everyone to feel that they should be connected to almost everyone and everything at all times. When creating these addicting hand-held devices, producers must recognize the many relationships people form with their cell phones. This recognition gave way for advertising moguls to take advantage of these relationships. The focus of this paper is to understand how the process of hegemony unfolds in the world of cell phones. The interactions between the producer, consumer, and cultural object all work together to perpetuate the use of the cell phone. Throughout this paper, Antonio Gramsci’s theory of hegemony is applied to show how producers use the process of hegemony to convince consumers to purchase a cell phone. According to Gitlin (1980: 253), hegemony “is a ruling class (or alliance) of domination of subordinate classes and groups through the elaboration and penetration of ideology (ideas and assumptions) into their common sense and everyday practice.” Regarding this theory, the ruling class in cell phone hegemony is the cell phone producer, while the subordinate classes/groups are the consumers. Two other important ideas to address in relation to cell phone hegemony are “common sense and good sense” (Croteau and Hoynes 2002: 164). Cell phone producers ingrain, “common sense,” the idea that people are social beings and that they are meant to be connected to anyone at any point in time. “Good sense,” while irrelevant to this paper, is still important to note. “Good sense” is the idea that while people are social beings, they do not need cell phones to function in society. Cell phone producers promote “common sense” by creating various plans (i.e. family plans) to accommodate the different needs of all segments of the population. Next, how a cell phone functions as a status symbol will be explored. Status symbols create a sense of coolness. Nonusers acknowledge this “coolness” and internalize it. As a result, they go out and buy a cell phone to feel the same reverence they previously bestowed upon other cell phone users. Cell phones can also serve as a means of individual differentiation and social integration. Individual differentiation, analogous to idea of status symbol, refers to the distinction of those who possess cell phones and those who do not. Cell phones also promote social integration. Durkheim refers to social integration as “collective effervescence.” According to Csiksentmihalyi and Rochberg-Halton (1981:34), collective effervescence “is the experience people get when participating in common activities… the experience of belonging to a whole greater than the sum of its parts, of being carried away by a group ‘spirit’.” All of these concepts are embedded in hegemony and are used as “raw material” by cell phone producers to persuade “subordinate classes” to buy a cell phone (Gottdiener 1985: 996). In addition to the reading packet and textbook, three academic sources were acquired. The definition of hegemony was ascertained from Gitlin’s “The Whole World is Watching: Mass Media and Unmaking of the New Left.” While M. Gottdiener’s “Hegemony and Mass Culture: A Semiotic Approach” criticizes the hegemonic approach, this paper uses those critiques to support that hegemony plays a role in cell phone use and advertisement. His semiotic approach to observing the relationships between cultural objects, consumers, and producers is applied to cell phones from a hegemonic perspective. Shilling and Mellor’s “Durkheim, morality and...
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