(TheWorld) Mobile Phones and Drugs

“Sort Drugs, Make Mates”: The use and meanings of mobiles in club culture, a talk by Karenza Moorepresented at the Digiplay seminar convened by Dr Nicola Green at University of Surrey

This paper presents the preliminary findings of work on the place of the mobile phone within club culture in the North-West of England. As a popular leisure pursuit, clubbing acts as an empirical probe with which to think about social and cultural aspects of the mobile phone as a leisure and leisure-organising technology. This paper draws on extensive observational work and interviews with young people who define themselves as ‘clubbers’, focusing on the use of mobiles within various clubbing spaces and clubbing ‘times’ (pre-club, in-club, post-club and ‘real-life’).

As a mundane artefact in people’s everyday lives in contemporary times, it can be difficult to ‘make strange’ the use of the mobile in specific spheres of socio-cultural life. Clearly young people involved in club culture use mobiles, but exactly how and why do they use them? And what significance or otherwise do particular patterns of usage have for them? Here the focus is on the ways in which ‘clubbers’ infuse their mobiles with certain meanings through their contemporary consumption practices. The mobile in this context becomes a technology with various meanings specific to the localised contexts of clubbers.

I concentrate on the use of mobiles to arrange clubbing nights out, to obtain (illegal) substances, to initiate contact with ‘randoms’ and to sustain clubbing friendships. Within club culture the mobile is viewed as an essential artefact in the clubbers’ socio-technical repertoire, just as decks and an I-Pod may be. The mobile is an artefact imbued with shifting meanings (enhancing or undermining personal safety for example) and deployed to strengthen and demonstrate the user’s sense of ‘belonging’ to the clubbing community.