Smartphones as Metamedia: A Framework for Identifying the Niches Structuring Smartphone Use

Lee Humphreys, Veronika Karnowski, Thilo von Pape


This article develops and applies a holistic approach to structure smartphone use. It builds on an understanding of the smartphone as a metamedium containing a multitude of “constituent media” that are applicable in an unprecedented range of contexts. We elaborate on the smartphone’s structure and its uses from two theoretical venture points: an ecological understanding of the evolving media landscape within the metamedium and a mobile phone–centered perspective on differential uses and gratifications of the metamedium as a whole within different contexts. Gibson’s affordance theory permits us to integrate these perspectives to account for smartphone structure and use in terms of niches that emerge out of embodiments and enactments of affordances in varying contexts of use.


metamedium, mobile communication, theory of the niche, affordance theory, uses and gratifications

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