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Mobile communication and public affairs engagement in Korea: an examination of non-linear relationships between mobile phone use and engagement across age groups

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This study examines the links between the use of mobile telephony and involvement in key areas of public life deemed important for a healthy society. We assess how three types of mobile phone uses (informational, relational, and social recreational) are related to two aspects of public affairs participation in South Korea (community engagement and political participation). Overall, findings in this study show significant roles of mobile phone use. For example, use of the mobile phone to seek out public affairs information and to discuss politics, i.e., informational use, was positively related to civic and political participation. Relational and social recreational use of the mobile phone was also found to have interesting and distinctive patterns of relationships with the criterion variables. Findings of this study mostly support the Mobile Reinforcement Hypothesis, which predicts that mobile communication primarily fuels trends already in place with the greatest benefits going to those who are already involved in public affairs, such as those who are older and with greater political interest. However, the observation of nonlinear relationships between mobile phone use and engagement dimensions along the age continuum strongly suggests that the political and civic role of mobile telephony is much more nuanced than previously assumed.
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Keywords: Korea; civic engagement; mobile communication; political participation; social capital

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Communication Studies,University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA 2: Graduate School of Information,Yonsei University, South Korea

Publication date: 2011-10-01

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