Mobile Media & Communication
This study initiates a line of research on how the fifth generation of wireless infrastructure (“5G”) is being imagined through media portrayals—in this case through advertising. At the time of this writing, 5G is not yet widely available, however the media is saturated with narratives about how it will revolutionize everyday life. Drawing from the social imaginaries and media infrastructures traditions, this textual analysis examines the social shaping of 5G through advertisements from leading telecoms in leading markets, including China and the United States. Findings reveal an overarching trend with ads from both societies imagining 5G in futuristic and utopian ways, suggesting new possibilities for people, objects, and places to be connected through smart homes, vehicles, factories, and cities—not just through smart phones. The findings also reveal distinctions in how 5G is envisioned at the societal level. For example, ads from China imagine 5G as a source of national pride that will elevate its global standing, while the US telecoms have a more inward focus on domestic competition. The discussion offers interpretations of these and other findings, along with directions for future research.
Campbell, S. W., Zhao, F., Frith, J., & Liang, F. (2021). Imagining 5G: Public sense-making through advertising in China and the US. Mobile Media & Communication, 9(3), 546–562. https://doi.org/10.1177/2050157920985239