Document Type


Date of Original Version



Communication Studies


Informed by nonparticipant observations of public cell phone use, we offer a Lacanian theorization of common social scenes involving mobile communication technologies. Identifying paradoxes of the mobile mediascape, such as connected versus disconnected and public versus private, we turn to Lacan’s distinction between the look and the gaze to read and reconcile these tensions. Moving beyond understanding cell phones as fetish objects, we use Lacan’s theory of the gaze as a means to understand the existential dilemma, a lack of being, which underwrites the pleasures of consumption. At the heart of the matter is how cell phones mobilize users’ desires and anxieties as social subjects in a mediatized consumptionscape.


Nikhilesh Dholakia and Jennifer Bonoff are in the College of Business.

Ian Reyes is from the Department of Communication Studies.