Unpacking the Relationship between Mobile Phone Usage Patterns, Network Size, and Civic Engagement

Chang Sup Park 1 *
More Detail
1 Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, USA
* Corresponding Author
Online Journal of Communication and Media Technologies, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp. 169-197. https://doi.org/10.29333/ojcmt/2596
OPEN ACCESS   1467 Views   900 Downloads   Published online: 26 Apr 2017
Download Full Text (PDF)


This study, based on a survey of 1,260 mobile phone users, investigates the relationships among patterns of mobile phone use, network size, and civic engagement. It finds that informational uses of mobile phones are positively associated with civic engagement – engagement in informal socializing and engagement in organized groups or clubs. On the other hand, relational and recreational uses have a neutral or negative association with civic engagement. Most important, the network size in mobile communication moderates the impact of relational and recreational uses on civic engagement while it mediates the impact of informational uses on civic engagement. This research indicates that the mobile phone, depending on its usage patterns and communication network size, can have different effects on civic engagement.


Park, C. S. (2017). Unpacking the Relationship between Mobile Phone Usage Patterns, Network Size, and Civic Engagement. Online Journal of Communication and Media Technologies, 7(2), 169-197. https://doi.org/10.29333/ojcmt/2596


  • AAPOR. (2009). Standard definitions: Final dispositions of case codes and outcome rates for surveys (6th ed.). Lenexa, KS: AAPOR.
  • Anderson, C. J. (1996). Political Action and Social Integration. American Politics Quarterly, 24(1), 105–204.
  • Besley, J. C. (2006). The role of entertainment television and its interactions with individual values in explaining political participation. The Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics, 11(2), 41–63.
  • Best, S., & Krueger, B. (2005). Analyzing the representativeness of internet political participation. Political Behavior, 27(2), 183–216.
  • Buddie.com. (2014). South Korea - Mobile Market - Overview, Statistics and Forecasts. http://www.budde.com.au/Research/South-Korea-Mobile-Market-OverviewStatistics-and-Forecasts.html#sthash.Jmuvrmb4.dpuf.
  • Campbell, S. W., & Kwak, N. (2010a). Mobile communication and social capital: An analysis of geographically differentiated usage patterns. New Media & Society, 12(3), 435–451.
  • Campbell, S. W., & Kwak, N. (2010b). Mobile communication and civic life: Linking patterns of use to civic and political engagement. Journal of Communication, 60(3), 536–555.
  • Campbell, S., & Kwak, N. (2011). Political involvement in “Mobilized” society: The interactive relationships among mobile communication, network characteristics, and political participation. Journal of Communication, 61(6), 1005–1032.
  • Cappella, J. N., Price, V., & Nir, L. (2002). Argument repertoire as a reliable and valid measure of opinion quality: Electronic dialogue during campaign 2000. Political Communication, 19(1), 73-93.
  • Castells, M. (2000). The rise of the network society. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.
  • Castells, M., & Portes, A. (1989). World underneath: The origins, dynamics, and effects of the informal economy. In A. Portes (Ed.), The informal economy: Studies in advanced and less developed countries (pp. 11–37). Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Charney, T., & Greenberg, B. S. (2002). Uses and gratifications of the Internet. In C. Lin & D. Atkin (Eds.), Communication technology and society: Audience adoption and uses (pp. 379–407). New York: Hampton Press.
  • Chin, W. W. (1998). Commentary: Issues and opinion on structural equation model. MIS Quarterly, 22(1), vii-xvi.
  • Cho, J., Rojas, H., & Shah, D. V. (2003). Social capital and media. In K. Christensen & D. Levinson (Eds.), Encyclopedia of community: From the village to the virtual world (pp. 1291–1295). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Cho, J., Shah, D. V., McLeod, J. M., McLeod, D. M., Scholl, R. M., Gotlieb, M. R. (2009). Campaign, reflection, and deliberation: Advancing an O-S-R-O-R model of communication effects. Communication Theory, 19(1), 66-88.
  • Coleman, J. S. (1990). Foundations of social theory. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Eveland, W. P. (2004). The effect of political discussion in producing informed citizens: The roles of information, motivation, and elaboration. Political Communication, 21(2), 177-193.
  • Eveland Jr, W. P., Hutchens, M. J., & Morey, A. C. (2013). Political network size and its antecedents and consequences. Political Communication, 30(3), 371–394.
  • Eveland, W. P., & Hively, M. H. (2009). Political discussion frequency, network size, and “heterogeneity” of discussion as predictors of political knowledge and participation. Journal of Communication, 59(2), 205–224.
  • Eveland, W. P., Jr., Shah, D. V., & Kwak, N. (2003). Assessing causality: A panel study of motivations, information processing and learning during campaign 2000. Communication Research, 30(4), 359–386.
  • Field, J. (2003). Social capital. New York: Routledge Gastil, J., & Dillard, J. P. (1999). Increasing Political Sophistication Through Public Deliberation. Political Communication, 16(1), 3–23.
  • Gefen, D., Straub, D. W., & Boudreau, M. C. (2000). Structural equation modeling and regression: Guidelines for research practice. Communications of the Association for Information Systems, 4, Article 7.
  • Gergen, K. J. (2008). Mobile communication and the transformation of the democratic process. In J. Katz (Ed.), Handbook of mobile communication studies (pp. 297–310). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Gil de Zúñiga, H., & Rojas, H. (2010). Analisis de los efectos de los blogs en la sociedad de la informacion. Comunicacion y Ciudadania, 2(3), 60-71.
  • Gil de Zúñiga, H., & Valenzuela, S. (2011). The mediating path to a stronger citizenship: Online and offline networks, weak ties, and civic engagement. Communication Research, 38(3), 397–421.
  • Gil de Zúñiga, H., Jung, N., & Valenzuela, S. (2012). Social media use for news and individuals' social capital, civic engagement and political participation. Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication, 17(3), 319-336.
  • Gil de Zuniga, H., Puig-I-Abril, E., & Rojas, H. (2009). Weblogs, traditional sources online and political participation: an assessment of how the internet is changing the political environment. New Media & Society, 11(4), 553–574.
  • Granovetter, M. S. (1973). The strength of weak ties. American Journal of Sociology, 78(6), 1360-1380.
  • Granovetter, M. S. (1982). The strength of weak ties: A network theory revisited. In P. V. Marsden & N. Lin (Eds.), Social structure and network analysis (pp. 105–130). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
  • Habuchi, I. (2005). Accelerating reflexivity. In M. Ito, D. Okabe & M. Matsuda (Eds.), Personal, portable, pedestrian: Mobile phones in Japanese life (pp. 165–182). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Hair, J. F., Sarstedt, M., Ringle, C. M., & Mena, J. A. (2012). An assessment of the use of partial least squares structural equation modeling in marketing research. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 40(3), 414–433.
  • Hampton, K. N., Sessions, L. F., & Her, E. J. (2011). Core networks, social isolation, and new media: How Internet and mobile phone use is related to network size and diversity. Information, Communication & Society, 14(1), 130–155.
  • Hermanns, H. (2008). Mobile democracy: Mobile phones as democratic tools. Politics, 28(2), 74–82.
  • Howson, C., & Urbach, P. (2005). Scientific Reasoning: the Bayesian Approach (3rd ed.). Chicago, IL: Open Court.
  • Huckfeldt, R., Beck, P. A., Dalton, R. J., & Levine, J. (1995). Political environments, cohesive social groups, and the communication of public opinion. American Journal of Political Science, 39(4), 1025-1054.
  • Huckfeldt, R., Mendez, J. M., & Osborn, T. (2004). Disagreement, ambivalence, and engagement: The political consequences of heterogeneous networks. Political Psychology, 25(1), 65–95.
  • Kavanaugh, A., Caroll, J. M., Rosson, M. B., Zin, T. T., & Reese, D. D. (2005). Community networks: Where offline and communities meet online. Journal of ComputerMediated-Communication, 10(4), article 3. Retrieved May 6, 2015 from http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol10/issue4/kavanaugh.html.
  • Kavanaugh, A. L., & Patterson, S. J. (2002). The Impact of Community Computer Networks on Social Capital and Community Involvement in Blacksburg. In B. Wellman & C. A. Haythornthwaite (Eds.), The Internet in everyday life (pp. 325–344). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.
  • Kaye, B. K. (1998). Uses and gratifications of the World Wide Web: From couch potato to Web potato. Atlantic Journal of Communication, 6(1), 21–40.
  • Klofstad, C. A. (2007). Talk Leads to Recruitment: How Discussions about Politics and Current Events Increase Civic Participation. Political Research Quarterly, 60(2), 180– 191.
  • Korea Election Management Commission (2013). The distribution of the electorate. http://www.nec.go.kr/search/search.jsp.
  • Kotler-Berkowitz, L. (2005). Ethnicity and political behavior among American Jews : findings from the National Jewish Population Survey 2000-01. Contemporary Jewry, 25, 132-157.
  • Kraut, R., Patterson, M., Lundmark, V., Kiesler, S., Mukopadhyay, T., & Scherlis, W. (1998). Internet paradox: A social technology that reduces social involvement and psychological well-being? American Psychologist, 53(9), 1017–1031.
  • Kwak, N., Campbell, S. W., Choi, J., & Bae, S. Y. (2011). Mobile communication and public affairs engagement in Korea: An examination of non-linear relationships between mobile phone use and engagement across age groups. Asian Journal of Communication, 21(5), 485–503.
  • Kwak, N., Shah D. V., Holbert, R. L. (2004). Connecting, trusting, and participating: The direct and interactive effect of social associations. Political Research Quarterly, 57(4), 643–652.
  • Kwak, N., Williams, A. E., Wang, X., & Lee, H. (2005). Talking politics and engaging politics: An examination of the interactive relationships between structural features of political talk and discussion engagement. Communication Research, 32(1), 87–111.
  • Lake, R. L., & Huckfeldt, R. (1998). Social capital, social networks, and political participation. Political Psychology, 19(3), 567–584.
  • Leung, L., & Wei, R. (2000). More than just talk on the move: Uses and gratifications of the cellular phone. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 77(2), 308–320.
  • Ling, R. (2004). The mobile connection: The cell phone’s impact on society. San Francisco, CA: Morgan Kaufman.
  • Ling, R. (2008). New tech, new ties: How mobile communication is reshaping social cohesion. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Ling, R., & Campbell, S. W. (Eds.) (2009). The reconstruction of space and time: Mobile communication practices. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.
  • Ling, R., & Yttri, B. (2002). Hyper-coordination via mobile phones in Norway. In J. E. Katz & M. Aakhus (Eds.), Perpetual contact: Mobile communication, private talk, public performance (pp. 139–169). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • Matsuda, M. (2005b). Mobile communications and selective sociality. In M. Ito, D, Okabe, & M. Matsuda (Eds.), Personal, portable, pedestrian: Mobile phones in Japanese life (pp. 123-142). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • McLeod, J. M., Daily, K., Guo, Z., Eveland, W. P. Jr., Bayer, J., Yang, S., et al. (1996). Community integration, local media use and democratic processes. Communication Research, 23(2), 179–209.
  • McLeod, J. M., Scheufele, D. A., & Moy, P. (1999). Community, communication, & participation: The role of mass media and interpersonal discussion in local political participation. Political Communication, 16(3), 315–336.
  • Moy, P., & Gastil, J. (2006). Predicting deliberative conversation: The impact of discussion networks, media use, and political cognitions. Political Communication, 23(4), 443– 460.
  • Newton, K. (1997). Social capital and democracy. American behavioral scientist, 40(5), 575– 586.
  • Norris, P. (1996). Does television erode social capital? A reply to Putnam. PS: Political Science and Politics, 29(3), 474–480.
  • Papacharissi, Z., & Rubin, A. M. (2000). Predictors of Internet usage. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 44(2), 175–196.
  • Park, C., & Karan, K. (2014). Unraveling the Relationships Between Smartphone Use, Exposure to Heterogeneity, Political Efficacy, and Political Participation: A Mediation Approach. Asian Journal of communication, 24(4), 379-389.
  • Pattie, C. J., & Johnston, R. J. (2009). Conversation, disagreement and political participation. Political Behavior, 31(2), 261-285.
  • Preacher, K. J., & Hayes, A. F. (2008). Asymptotic and resampling strategies for assessing and comparing indirect effects in multiple mediator models. Behavior research methods, 40(3), 879–891.
  • Putnam, R. D. (1995a). Bowling alone: America’s declining social capital. Journal of Democracy, 6(1), 65–78.
  • Putnam, R. D. (1995b). Tuning in, tuning out: The strange disappearance of social capital in America. PS: Political Science and Politics, 28(4), 664–683.
  • Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon & Schuster.
  • Real, J. C., Roldán, J. L., & Leal, A. (2014). From Entrepreneurial Orientation and Learning Orientation to Business Performance: Analysing the Mediating Role of Organizational Learning and the Moderating Effects of Organizational Size. British Journal of Management, 25(2), 186-208.
  • Rettie, R. (2008). Mobile phones as network capital: Facilitating connections. Mobilities, 3(2), 291–311.
  • Ringle, C. M., Wende, S., & Will, S. (2005). SmartPLS 2.0 (M3) Beta, Hamburg 2005.
  • Rojas, H. (2008). Strategy versus understanding how orientations toward political conversation influence political engagement. Communication Research, 35(4), 452– 480.
  • Rojas, C. M., Puig-i-Abril, E. (2009). Mobilizers mobilized: Information, expression, mobilization and participation in the Digital Age. Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication, 14(4), 902-927.
  • Rojas, H., Shah, D. V., Cho, J., Schmierbach, M., Keum, H., & Gil-De-Zuniga, H. (2005). Media dialogue: Perceiving and addressing community problems. Mass Communication & Society, 8(2), 93–110.
  • Shah, D. V. (1998). Civic engagement, interpersonal trust, and television use: An individuallevel assessment of social capital. Political Psychology, 19(3), 469–496.
  • Shah, D. V., Kwak N., & Holbert, R. L. (2001). “Connecting” and “disconnecting” with civic life: Patterns of Internet use and the production of social capital. Political Communication, 18(2), 141–162.
  • Shah, D. V., McLeod, J. M., & Yoon, S. H. (2001). Communication, context and community: An exploration of print, broadcast and Internet influences. Communication Research, 28(4), 464-506
  • Shah, D., Cho, J., Eveland, W. P. Jr., & Kwak, N. (2005). Information and expression in a digital age: Modeling Internet effects on civic participation. Communication Research, 32(5), 531–565.
  • Son, J., & Lin, N. (2008). Social capital and civic action: A network-based approach. Social Science Research, 37(1), 330-349.
  • Sotirovic, M., & McLeod, J. M. (2001). Values, communication behavior, and political participation. Political Communication, 18(3), 273–300.
  • Suarez, S. L. (2006). Mobile democracy: Text messages, voter turnout and the 2004 Spanish general election. Representation, 42(2), 117–127.
  • Statistics Korea (2014). Survey outlines. http://kostat.go.kr/portal/english/index.action.
  • Valenzuela, S., Park, N., & Kee, K. F. (2009). Is There Social Capital in a Social Network Site? Facebook Use and College Students’ Life Satisfaction, Trust, and Participation. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 14(4), 875–901.
  • Verba, S., Schlozman, K. L., & Brady, H. E. (1995). Voice and equality: Civic voluntarism in American politics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Wei, R. (2008). Motivations for using the mobile phone for mass communications and entertainment. Telematics and Informatics, 25(1), 36–46.
  • Wei, R., & Lo, V. (2006). Staying connected while on the move: Cell phone use and social connectedness. New Media & Society, 8(1), 53–72.
  • Weimann, G. (1982). On the importance of marginality: One more step into the two-step flow of communication. American Sociological Review, 47(6), 764–773.
  • Wellman, B. (2002a). Designing the Internet for a networked society. Communications of the ACM, 45(5), 91–96.
  • Wetzels, M., Schroder, G. O., Oppen, V. C. (2009). Using PLS path modeling for assessing hierarchical construct models: Guidelines and empirical illustration. MIS Quarterly, 33 (1), 177-195.
  • Wilken, R. (2011). Bonds and bridges: Mobile phone use and social capital debates. R. S. Ling & S. W. Campbell (Eds.), Mobile communication: Bringing us together and tearing us apart (pp. 127–146). New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.