Abstract||Worldwide use of mobile phones has created a new basis for interpersonal communication and has become a ubiquitous feature of youth culture. Hence the examination of global mobile phone adoption is a global challenge for communication researchers as well as for the media industries. Thus far, New Media research in New Zealand (NZ) has focused on children and teenagers. The group of young adults between 18-25 years has rarely been surveyed. This thesis focused on university students’ use of mobile communication in NZ in the context of their everyday practices. The Mobile Media Study (MMS) was designed as a cross-national comparative research project with a focus on NZ together with one European and one North American country. The usage behavior, experiences, attitudes, and opinions of young NZers’ towards mobile phone use was examined and contrasted to young German and American students. Methodological and data triangulation was applied and data was collected at the University of Otago, the City University of New York, the Pennsylvania State University, and the University of Leipzig. MMS survey research was conducted along with focus group and personal interviews, and qualitative exercises. In addition, the latest data from a longitudinal study of New Media use in Germany, the US and NZ served as a secondary, comparative, and complementary dataset.
The research questions focused on general mobile phone use, text-messaging (SMS), the acceptance of Third Generation (3G) cell phones, mobile phone use in public places, gender-specific usages, and the construction of mobile social networks. Altogether, data from 1,316 students at four universities in three countries was analyzed. Results indicated that the number of providers as well as tariff structures appear to influence mobile phone adoption within a country. To adjust to the duopoly situation young people in NZ preferred prepaid cards in connection with a SMS package. This was reflected by extraordinarily high use of SMS in NZ. By comparison German and American students preferred annual contracts. Americans, who had the strongest preference for mobile calling, also had the highest monthly expenses. Additionally, findings revealed that overall user interest in 3G services is not yet very high. It was found that in particular NZ students do not exploit the full range of mobile services already available to them and feel confident that their current cell phone gratifies all their needs. They concentrate on using basic functions, such as calling and SMS. In addition, results suggest a decreasing role of the landline telephone and email for interpersonal communication.
Gender differences were found with NZ women in particular being most enthusiastic about SMS. German men had the most negative attitude toward SMS and also used the service the least in comparison to the other students surveyed. In general women had a preference for the communicative functions on their mobile phone including voicemail and more women than men in Germany and NZ were found to play mobile phone games. Finally, evidence of gender specific social network structures were found in NZ with male networks resembling spider webs while female networks were centered so that all persons in the network connected back to the center. Overall, students only used a fraction of the contacts in their mobile phone book and communicated mostly within a limited local area. In conclusion, a replication of the MMS was suggested along with further multi-method research in the field of Asian-NZer’s New Media use.