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Finnish cultural discourses about the mobile phone communication

Saila Poutiainen, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This study describes the cultural discourses in the communication and meta-communication among Finns about the mobile phone. The overall task at hand was to find out how mobile phone communication is described and discussed in speech and writing about mobile phoning, and what the underlying premises are in play on communication, personhood and social relations in these descriptions. Mobile phone communication was approached from the theoretical and philosophical perspective of ethnography of communication, and from cultural discourse analysis in particular. The analyses were conducted through the main theoretical constructs of terms for talk, myths, positioning, and the discursive force of norms. The analysis of interview talk, newspaper, magazine and other media texts, official documents, reports, and books suggested a number of different findings: Pragmatic communicative actions on mobile phone were described with several cultural terms (Carbaugh, 1989) referring to both oral and written communication. Mobile phone talk was discussed by using descriptive terms for talk. 'Idle talk' on the mobile phone was found to vacillate with asiallinen (matter-of-factly) style of communication. The comments about kännykkäkansa (the mobile phone nation), and more generally about Finnishness and mobile phoning were seen as contesting as well as re-creating the almost 150 year old myth of Finnishness. Reachability and disturbance via mobile phone were examined as paradoxical universal. Reachability was found to be related to positive face needs. Disturbance or a threat to one's negative face needs, in turn, was also an inherent feature of the mobile phone, and the need to reach others and respond could count as disturbance. As the model of discursive forces (Hall 1988/1989) was deployed, it was found that the demand or norm of reachability was criticized and challenged in many ways, and the expectation of not disturb others and not being disturbed by them was negotiable. A value of being in peace was considered more important for some Finns than being reachable or disturbing. The analyses provided insights to the Finnish cultural discourses about Finnishness, social relations, communication, and culture and technology.

Subject Area

Linguistics|Communication|Mass media

Recommended Citation

Poutiainen, Saila, "Finnish cultural discourses about the mobile phone communication" (2007). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3289237.