Accepted Paper:

Getting bored: mobile phone use among Romanian teenagers  


Razvan Nicolescu (Imperial College London)

Paper short abstract:

By looking at everyday practices of technology in relation to boredom, the paper will ascertain how specific arrangements between “humile” technical objects (to follow Miller 1987) and “works of imagination” (to follow Appadurai 1986) create social meaning.

Paper long abstract:

Throughout the last century it has been extensively argued that technology plays a key role in the mediation of the emotional experience of the modern man. In this paper I will depart from this flattened perspective in order to interrogate specific forms of social subjectivities shaped at the confluence between boredom and new technologies.

I will start by showing how, through the use of mobile phones, teenagers practice their newly gained subjectivities inside particular private spaces far from school and parents surveillance. Stressing teenagers' blurred social status, mobile phones constitute themselves into unexpected objects of negotiation between the families' need to expand their authority beyond the domestic space and the teenagers' strong tendency to defend their newly conquered space and avoid such authority. I will also look at how certain techniques of appropriation of mobile phones objectify particular forms of social engagement, throughout teenagers' perpetual swing between monotony and excitement.

Under this perspective, I will consider boredom within its shared intimacy with technology. Beyond the "problem of boredom" that societies are supposed to resolve somehow, as Kopytoff seems to claim (1994), I will look at how individuals experience, internalise and ultimately transform boredom. I will consider boredom not as a sort of suspension of the individual, trapped inside an overwhelmingly congested society, but as an unexpected account for intense creation of subjective meaning. I will look on how mere boredom mediates social practice at the confluence between individual subjectivities and the technology available at their fingertips.

Panel W071
Media, technology, and knowledge cultures: anthropological perspectives on issues of diversity, mutuality and exclusion