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Publications - Abstracts:

Community and Social Interaction in the Wireless City: Wi-Fi use in Public and Semi-Public Spaces.


A significant body of research has addressed whether fixed internet use increases, decreases or supplements the ways in which people engage in residential and workplace settings, but few studies have addressed how wireless internet use in public and semi-public spaces influences social life. Ubiquitous wi-fi adds a new dimension to the debate over how the internet may influence the structure of community.Will wireless internet use facilitate greater engagement with co-located others or encourage a form of ‘public privatism’? This article reports the findings of an exploratory ethnographic study of how wi-fi was used and influenced social interactions in four different settings: paid and free wi-fi cafes in Boston, MA and Seattle,WA.This study found contrasting uses for wireless internet and competing implications for community.Two types of practices, typified in the behaviors of ‘true mobiles’ and ‘placemakers’, offer divergent futures for how wireless internet use may influence social relationships.

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