University Of Tasmania
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Placing ICT in acculturation : a mixed methods study of mobile phones in the everyday life of the international student

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posted on 2023-05-27, 11:03 authored by Rolf, HG
From the moment a person makes the decision to study at an education institution overseas their life will be in flux. The stress this causes, combined with new unfamiliar circumstances, geographic isolation and cultural difference, can magnify even common everyday issues into significant challenges which can have serious negative impacts on the student's adjustment to a host society ‚Äö- a process known as acculturation. Acculturation is defined as the change that occurs as the result of sustained first hand contact between individuals of differing cultural origins (Ward, Bochner, & Furnham, 2001). It is known that an international student will rely upon a wide range of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for information and communication to keep themselves up-to-date and to respond quickly when issues arise during everyday life. But there is only a limited understanding when it comes to the role of new forms of ICTs, such as mobile phones, in the acculturation process and psychological or sociocultural outcomes. The aim of this thesis has been to explore the role of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the acculturation process, as experienced by international students from a sociocultural perspective. This research problem has been addressed through a sequential emergent multiphase mixed methods research design in three phases. Phase One explored the extent of ICT use during an international student's journey. Through a series of focus groups, accounts of collective experiences were captured in conversation with international students. Conversations were aided by a reflexive card sort exercise asking about modes and means of communication used by students at three stages of their journeys: life before departure, at arrival, and in their present situation. The process elicited a rich data set of collective experience, including the modes and means of communication (not only ICTs) valued and relied upon by students during their journey. Correspondence Analysis (Greenacre, 1984) revealed that in relation to other modes and means of communication the mobile phone was significant throughout a student's journey but that students took its role in their everyday life for granted. Phase Two emerged from the results of Phase One where a broader picture of phone use was needed to interpret the apparent significance of the phone in the lives of international students. The Phase Two study was designed to focus on the relationship between mobile phone use, situation and individual variables through a survey questionnaire administered to a sample of the student population. Statistical analysis of response data presents a picture of capable mobile phone users, who consistently use their phones to find information while staying in Tasmania. But exceptions were present ‚Äö- students who did not or could not make use of their phones in the same way as their peers. These results along with those from Phase One provided an understanding of the context and ways in which international students adopt, appropriate and use ICT, but an in-depth understanding of the mobile phone in an individual's everyday life was needed to better understand how and why the mobile phone was important. Phase Three provides an in-depth understanding of the mobile phone in the everyday life for an international student. Being able to access information had emerged as an important reason for having a phone and the phase three study was designed to focus on describing the phone's place in a student's everyday information practice (Savolainen, 2008). In-depth interviews followed the Information Source Horizon (ISH) think aloud graphical drawing exercise (Savolainen & Kari, 2004) to map the importance of information sources, and understand how students valued and selected them when needs for information arose in their everyday lives. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) (J. A. Smith & Osborn, 2008), supported by content analysis of graphical drawings, showed that having a phone was central to everyday information practice but that the phone acted as a channel rather than a source of information itself. There were exceptions, however, and cases where having a phone was not important to information practice. Differences arose from individual and situational circumstances both past and present. Results from the three phases were then mixed to form a set of findings relating to the importance of ICTs in the acculturation process as experienced by international students, with a focus on the use of mobile phones for communication and information in everyday life. Mixed method results reveal that during their sojourn an international student's life is in flux, as social life is disrupted and at times becomes unpredictable, but rather than needing to rebuild everyday life in a new context, having a phone allows an international student to maintain consistency in everyday life throughout the sojourn. General models of the acculturation process are not sensitive to the increasing importance of ICTs or the highly mediated context of an international student's everyday life revealed by these results. If applied to understand the acculturation and adjustment of international students, the use of existing models may lead to inconsistent assumptions being made about the acculturation experience. To address this an adapted model of the acculturation experience is presented, updated to include ICTs and other mediating factors in the acculturation process and better capture the acculturation experience of international students. It might be assumed that the acculturation experience for an international student is a linear process, but the reality is that the journey experience will by cyclical, with short intermittent periods of time spent in both home and host societies. Results demonstrated that the use of a cyclical model in recurring stages (i.e. home, arrival and here) can more naturally capture an international student's sojourn experience. This led to the development of a cyclical model of the sojourn experience. The model demonstrates the relationship between an international student's sojourn experience and changes in ICT adoption and appropriation. It provides a means for further investigation and a greater understanding of the relationship between an international student's experience and mediating factors, like new forms of ICT, in their everyday lives.


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