Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Media Studies

Supervisor

Dr. Sandra Smeltzer

2nd Supervisor

Dr. Edward Comor

Joint Supervisor

Abstract

This dissertation offers a critical and historical analysis of the myth of ubiquitous connectivity—a myth widely associated with the technological capabilities offered by “always on” Internet-enabled mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. This myth proclaims that work and social life are optimized, made more flexible, manageable, and productive, through the use of these devices and their related services. The prevalence of this myth—whether articulated as commercial strategy, organizational goal, or mode of social mediation—offers repeated claims that the experience and organization of daily life has passed a technological threshold. Its proponents champion the virtues of the invisible “last mile” tethering individuals (through their devices) primarily to commercial networks.

The purpose of this dissertation is to uncover the interaction between the proliferation of media artifacts and the political economic forces and relations occluded by this myth. To do this, herein the development of the BlackBerry, as a specific brand of devices and services, is shown to be intimately interrelated with the myth of ubiquitous connectivity. It demonstrates that the BlackBerry is a technical artifact whose history sheds light on key characteristics of our media environment and the political economic dynamics shaping the development of other technologies, workforce composition and management, and more general consumption proclivities. By pointing to the analytic significance of the BlackBerry, this work does not intend to simply praise its creators for their technical and commercial achievements. Instead, it aims to show how these achievements express a synthesis that represents the motivations of economic actors and prevailing modes of thought most particularly as they are drawn together in and through the myth of ubiquitous connectivity. The narrative arc of this dissertation is anchored by moments of harmonization among political economic interests as these shape (and are shaped by) prevailing modes of producing and relating through ubiquitous connectivity.


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