Keynote Speaker

Evolution or Revolution? Diffusion and Adaptation of (Smart) Mobile Phones Among Children and Adolescents

By Dr. Gitte Bang Stald, Associate Professor, IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark


The emergence of new media and communication technologies and the subsequent potential and actual changes in social practices are often associated with revolutionary consequences. When advanced digital communication devices reach a certain level of diffusion within society they become very visible as obvious choices for information, communication, entertainment and management of everyday life. It is definitely important to expose and explain the qualitative transformative consequences of the diffusion and adaptation of in this case especially the smart mobile devices. It is, however, often less prominent to identify and explain the process of continuity, appropriation and normative adjustments of new technologies as they blend into the everyday routines and practices. I claim that there are good reasons to try and to discuss the simple correlation between diffusion and adaptation of new media and processes of change.  The aim of this presentation is to provide such insights based on empirical data and to raise adequate questions for research and debate.  Empirically I draw on results from the two European projects Net Children Go Mobile and EU Kids Online and from a five time repeated study of young Danes uses of mobile phones.

I present two main arguments: First, that European children’s and adolescents’ appropriation of smart mobile communication technologies predominantly take place in an evolutionary process which is rooted in continuity of adaptation processes, in everyday routines, and in patterns of social interaction rather than in a revolutionary transformation of communication strategies. Secondly, following the first argument, that we must understand the emergence and momentum of digital communication technologies in society in the context of media and communication history, culture, and social structures. Hence, the diffusion of (smart) mobile phones may have revolutionary consequences in some cultures, whereas it is obviously the result of a long process and continuity in others. The social consequences differ according to context.


Gitte Stald, Ph.D., Associate Professor, IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark. Head of research network Democracy & Citizenship in Digital Society (DECIDIS), head of research group Culture & Communication, head of graduate study program Digital Design & Communication. Her primary research areas are digital media, democracy, citizenship, and participation; mobile media and social change; digital youth cultures; digital media and globalization. She participated in two European networks/projects EU Kids Online2006-2014 (to be continued) and in Net Children Go Mobile 2012-2014; presently she heads the study Media Competencies and Media Literacy in a Danish Context. She has published articles on adolescents’ digital media cultures, on mobile media and communication, and on digital media and democracy.