Category Archives: social change

Youth, mobile phones and social change

via Mobile  Revolutions

TakingITMobile is a community-based research study conducted in partnership with the social network TakingITGlobal that examines how youth leaders across the globe use mobile communications to create social change within their local communities and internationally. As an e-PAR study, youth participants were encouraged to take the reigns as researchers through the online TakingITMobile Working Group, which comprised of 39 youth representing 20 different countries. TakingITMobile participants (n = 565) paint a picture of the diversity of mobile youth activism around the world.

More information…

(with thanks to Mireia Fernandez-Ardevol for the link)

Top 20 research reports on mobiles in developing countries

via GSM World site

The following list provides links to the top 20 research reports on the economic and social impact of mobile communications in developing countries as highlighted in The GSMA Development Fund Top 20 report (pdf).

The top 20 studies were determined based on content, relevance, originality and credibility. While it is not an exhaustive and scientifically developed list, it illustrates the work that we feel is most important at the moment and highlights key conclusions on the impact of mobile technology in developing countries. As this is not a scientific ranking, the studies are not displayed by rank, but rather in alphabetical order according to author.

Read more…

Mobile phone revolution in the Tundra?

By John Postill

Stammler, F. M. (2009). Mobile Phone Revolution in the Tundra? Technological change among Russian reindeer nomads. Folklore (Tartu) 41, 47-78.

Tentative discussion as author didn’t focus on mobile phones during anthropological fieldwork. Paper based on fieldwork and conversations in 1998-2007.

Mobile phones could well turn out to be revolutionary among Russian reindeer nomads. Novelty is that mobiles bring to Tundra ‘real-time interactive private oral communication’, p. 52.

Mobiles require little energy, and herders already had small portable power generators for lighting years ago, p. 62. Phones carried under their parkas (malitsa), close to body; this protects batteries from winter cold, p. 62

Elena interesting remark: ‘There is nothing to talk about when you visit your neighbours’ – coz now can keep up with news and gossip via mobiles, p. 63

[Great for micro-coordination, see Ling]. For example:

1. Male herder said you can now be with herd and on your way home and tell wife to ‘heat the stove and brew some fresh tea’, p. 63.

2. Reindeer herdering union’s HQ could coordinate slaughters, timing, supplies, meat delivery to oil company settlement, etc, all via mobiles, p. 64

3. collect info for herders’ insurance companies, p. 64 [Freedom of the tundra and modcons all at once? where do I sign up?]

In sum, there is much potential of mobiles to improve herders’ livelihoods, p. 65

Mobile trends among reindeer nomads:

  • Young men are early adopters and drivers of mobile phone changes
  • Middle-aged men starting to use mobiles for work as well as networking with relatives
  • Young and middle-aged women use phones more for leisure, incl. news and gossip, p. 66

In 2006 (only seven months after mobiles introduced) herders laughed at anthropologist for using ‘totally outdated’ mobile and in 2007 for using ‘female’ handset, i.e. have been very quick to absorb wider societal normative views on mobiles.

Researchers in metropolitan centres have argued that mobiles increase the elasticity of life, from precise moments of pre-mobile life to ‘approximate’ moments, esp. teens and young adults ability to ‘tie together their peer group against the backdrop of a relatively nomadic life’.

But in Russian Tundra very different: mobiles don’t increase freedom, they reduce it: ‘planning security increases, moments are stated more precisely, and life becomes less “elastic”‘ , i.e mobiles ‘tighten the grip on people’s life rhythm, and reduce freedom and flexibility’, p. 71.

Tenhunen (2008) on mobiles and social change in rural India

By John Postill

Tenhunen, S. 2008 ‘Mobile technology in the village: ICTs, culture, and social logistics in India’, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (N.S.) 14, 515-534

* Anthropological fieldwork in West Bengal village in 1999-2000. Further visits in 2003, 2005, 2007-8, p. 518

* Eschews narrow focus of most technology appropriation studies to date on usage; technology and society are mutually constitutive, p. 529

* Phone usage cannot be separated from village sociality, ‘most calls are public happenings’, messages often being passed on in public or via intermediaries, p. 521; local identity has always been part of networks that extend well beyond the village, p. 522, not least through village exogamy, p. 523

* Most calls happen within kin groups, often asking for help, but mobiles allow people to extend their connections as well, p. 524

* Like researchers in other parts of the world, Tenhunen found that mobiles were improving the livelihoods of micro-entrepreneurs and some farmers, etc., p. 528

* They also further the ongoing decline of traditional village patronage; newly prosperous villagers can now use mobiles to bypass village elders [see same argument made for TV in 1990s rural Kerala by Johnson 2001]

* Mobiles allow women and young people some leeway in conducting their affair(e)s away from the relentless village surveillance

* Mobiles entangled with other processes of social change under way in West Bengal: land reform, new agricultural methods leading to poverty reduction (73% poor in 1973-4 to 32% in 1999-2000), education, women’s movement, spread of radio and TV, p. 529

* Takes issue with practice theorists (Giddens, Bourdieu, Ortner, Sahlins) for playing down critical human agency, esp. the capacity people have to consciously change the conditions of their existence, in this case partly through the aid of mobile phones: ‘actors can consciously strive for change, or show disregard for a cultural code of conduct – such as villagers who obtain help from outside the village instead of from the village leaders, or women who use the phones to broaden their culturally constructed space’, p. 531.

* Also distances herself from ICT domestication tradition and instead focusses on ‘local’ cultural settings, p. 517

* Inspired by anthropological research on mobiles amongst poor Jamaicans by Horst and Miller (2006) but finds that they overemphasize how mobiles contribute to cultural reproduction at the expense of investigating their role in cultural change.

* Along with radio, TV, and DVDs, mobiles ‘offer culturally approved social alternatives and the widening of culturally constructed spheres, especially those of women’, p. 530

* Duality of mobiles: on one hand have improved local people’s ‘social logistics’ (markets, connections, efficiency), on the other they have reproduced existing local culture, strenghtening kinship ties and ‘village solidarity’, p. 530