Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Mary Hocks

Second Advisor

Michael Harker

Third Advisor

George Pullman


The metaphors “tipping point” and “paradigm shift” are used to describe the moments surrounding social and scientific changes; however, I argue that in examining changes in culture and communication, the role of technology suggests the need for a new metaphor. Weaving together cultural studies, digital rhetoric and technology theories, I offer a complimentary metaphor, the cultural gateway, defined as specific artifacts that are simultaneously familiar and strange, providing a comfortable bridge between “before and after.” This thesis posits that the iPhone behaves as such a gateway to our current, fully mobile paradigm, and has changed the face of everyday composition. Employing the circuit of culture, I examine evidence found in early media accounts of iPhone’s impact, literacy narratives that name smartphones and iPhones as literacy agents, and early advertising. Investigations suggest that these quotidian artifacts have additional, unintended purposes that are quite human and intrinsic to our ordered realities.