Understanding acceptance decisions and identity associated with smartphones: A qualitative enquiry

Doctoral Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This research project investigated how users accept smartphones and construct self and social identities around their devices. Working from the social constructionist paradigm and employing the perspective of symbolic interactionism to understand the acceptance decisions and choice, this research developed an integrated model of smartphone adoption through four empirical studies. The data were gathered from user self-reports on smartphones running on three leading operating platforms – iOS, BlackBerry OS, and Android. Acceptance decisions were analyzed in first two studies from the perspective of users’ experiences. Study 1 utilized an extension of technology acceptance model and analyzed influences of key product attributes on attitude and actual use through qualitative content analysis. Study 2 focused on both users and non-users of specific smartphones. Employing ethnographic decision tree modeling, this study proposed a model for smartphone acceptance. Using social identity theory as the analytical lens and qualitative content analysis as the research technique, Study 3 examined the ways social identities are formed based on specific smartphone use. Study 4 explored why users attach identification with their smartphones employing a hermeneutic circle framework. The results of these studies suggest that both pragmatic and hedonic attributes of smartphones are important for usage decisions. Identification, enjoyment, and strength of nomadic abilities were found to be important. The results also suggest that users form social identities around their devices by selfcategorizing themselves in celebrated user groups and self-enhancing their member status. Identification fulfils the need for legitimizing the commitment toward the device cued by positive contextual experiences and helps to hold a positive image to self and relevant others. The integrated theoretical understanding offered in this thesis illuminates smartphone adoption as a set of processes which unfolds over time based on users’ interactions with the object and the peers in relevant communities. This novel understanding, along with the separate findings of the studies contributes to IS theory and methodology. Implications for practice and directions for future research are also suggested by this research.

Includes bibliographical references.