Cell phone media research copy

“We sleep with it, we wake up with it, we drive with it, we eat with it, we talk with it and we feel with it,” said UTSA professor Dr. Seok Kang about humans and their smartphone use.

Humans rely on smart phones. They are the most widely used method of communication; it is an all-in-one device that fulfills the 24-hour, day-to-day needs the first world.

Such dutiful reliance on smartphones suggested to Kang, who began studying human smartphone dependency in 2012, that people equipped with a cellphone may have their intrinsic and extrinsic needs met by the device. These needs include physiological needs, safety, social, esteem and self-actualization — ­Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Kang joined with Jaemin Jung, renowned scholar at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), to investigate if smartphones can meet basic needs.

Kang and Jung created a scale to determine the extent that smartphones met human needs. They then collected data through two studies in the United States and South Korea. Both countries were chosen not only because they have distinct cultural backgrounds but are also technologically advanced and have high cell phone usage.

In their first study, Kang and Jung adapted the scale they created to a survey and administered it to 437 American university students and 378 Korean university students.

The results from their initial effort showed that not only could a smartphone meet the five basic needs of humans but it could also do so regardless of cultures. They found that because the smartphone is deeply embedded in daily routines, many people view the smartphone as being a necessary device and a lifeline for communication.

In their second study, Kang and Jung considered how students actually used their phone to satisfy those needs. A total of 673 U.S. students and 376 Korean students participated in the survey.

U.S. users used their smart phones mostly for Internet browsing, calls, text messages and mobile apps. Conversely, Korean smartphone users found entertainment and convenience to be the most important phone functions.

Kang explained that the Korean users considered group connectedness to be a very important aspect of their smart phone use, while the U.S. users were more individualistic in their smartphone use.

According to Kang, the U.S. culture views social media as a way to showcase individual achievement, while Korean culture views social interaction as the main purpose for their social media use.

“One interesting finding,” Kang said, “is that both U.S. and Korean smartphone users do not think the smartphone is a symbol of status or a prestigious item.”

“In other words,” Kang explained, “the smartphone needs are a global phenomenon regardless of the differences in communication culture.”

Kang hopes the findings from the study can be applied to other countries.

“The smartphone Basic Needs Scale (we used in our study) can be a standard guideline about how human beings meet their implicit and explicit needs using the smartphone,” Kang explained.

The studies’ findings showed that although the use of a smartphone for meeting basic needs is culturally driven and some differences exist, the similarities suggest there may be a universal smartphone culture.

As Kang hopes to discover in other countries, “The smartphone needs are a global phenomenon. Simply speaking, they are now part of our daily lives.”

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