Some empirical data on smartmob behavior and civil society: Political Involvement in “Mobilized” Society: The Interactive Relationships among Mobile Communication, Social Network Characteristics, and Political Life (PDF) by Scott W. Campbell and Nojin Kwak was presented at “Mobile 2.0: Beyond Voice?” Pre-conference workshop at the International Communication Association (ICA) Conference, Chicago, Illinois 20 – 21 May 2009.
In recent years mobile communication has emerged as a new channel for political discourse among close friends and family members. While some celebrate new possibilities for political life, others are concerned that intensive use of the technology can lead to small, insular networks of like-minded individuals with harmful effects on civil society. Drawing from a representative sample of adults in the U.S., this study examined how mobile-mediated discourse with close ties interacts with social network characteristics to predict levels of political participation and political openness. Findings revealed that use of the technology for discussing politics and public affairs with close network ties is positively associated with both political participation and openness, but that these relationships are moderated by the size and heterogeneity of one’s network. Notably, levels of participation and openness decline with increased use of the technology in small networks of like-minded individuals. However, these trends are reversed under certain network conditions, showing the role of mobile communication in civil society is highly dependent upon the social context of its use.