Hutchins, “‘We don’t need no stinking smartphones!'”

Hutchins. “’We don’t need no stinking smartphones!’ Live stadium sports events, mediatization, and the non-sue of mobile media” MSC Apr 2016 38.3 (16 pages)

Hutchins looks at intersection conversations concerning mobile media use during sporting events. At the center of these conversations are questions about “how to live well with media” while it becomes “increasingly difficult to conduct social life in a myriad domains without media” (421). Hutchins’ objective is to “show how the smartphone is a potent symbol for reflection and debate about how deeply media technologies and practices should be embedded into the conduct and experience of social life” (422).

Hutchins takes as his framework the mediatization of social life. Defines, mediatization refers to the “theorization of media transformation over time, focused on the expanding influence of media institutions, practices, and technologies on a diverse collection of social settings” (422). In other words, mediatization is a process where culture and societies are becoming increasingly dependent upon media—and their logics—to structure institutions within those cultures and societies. Media and their logics, thus, reshapes many fields of human activity and reciprocally, are contingent upon those social contexts. Sports, for example, has experienced a mediatization: “the term media sport is shorthand for the naturalization of an institutionalized interpenetration that moves across and between a series of social and culture spheres” (423). The objective of Hutchin’s piece is to outline how we respond to mediatization.

For instance, there exists a conflict “over the emergence and impact of new rituals of mobile phone use in face-to-face and public settings” (425). In other words, how will the ritual of split attention impact social interactions? Often, the ban on such devices is meant to foster contact between spectators and spectacle. For example, Kate Bush asks her fans not to record her during live performances. Such a plea (aside from preventing circulation on social media sites) is purported to “maximize connection with her audience” (427). Hutchins notes, however, that these pleas often reflect which kind of network/encounter/contact that is valued: “This appeal distinguishes between non-mediatized and mediatized modes of contact and sharing, with the shared affective experience of a concert valued over the sharing of media content by attendees with their distinct contacts” (428). In other words, media does connect users to a network, but those like Kate Bush value the network and encounters that are facilitated without mediation.

In a sporting context, Hutchins argues that Cuban “has a particular concern with the creation and protection of treasured sporting memories built from shared moments. The outcome is an idealization of live arena basketball and a determination to have fans ‘put down’ their smartphones in order to mark NBA games as ‘communal’ spaces and moments” (428). He is motivated by “the nostalgic idealization of live sports characterized by shared emotions, moments, memories, and family experiences. His belief in these moments perpetuates a ritual view of sport that sees spectators reliant on each other for the affirmation of communitas” (429). However, there are other sport executives who do not agree with Cuban. For example, Ranadivé values the networks developed over mobile mediation and actively supports mobile mediation in his stadium. Such mediation enables “the surveillance and commodification of sonsumer sentiment during the game” (430). Regardless, the conflict centers on the degree to which “mobile media should infiltrate the social ritual of basketball spectatorship” (430).

Concluding, Hutchins sees that “social interactions have become pauseable as people stop and look down at their mobile screens” (431). As such, mobile devices are seen as moments of pause rather than moments of mobility or movement.

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