Spatial injustices and mobile communication: Patterns of internet access in urban South Africa

Marion Walton, University of Cape Town

Jonathan Donner, Microsoft Research

Spatial injustices and mobile communication: Patterns of internet access in urban South Africa Marion Walton, University of Cape Town Jonathan Donner, Microsoft Research Abstract We describe results from interviews, prompts, and observational exercises with resource-constrained teenage visitors to cybercafés and public libraries in Cape Town. We observed a split between a mobile habitus, focused on social coordination and communication, and a mobile production habitus, which included mobile resources in research and the creation of documents for school homework. Those we observed using the phones in this way were more likely to be on the peripheries of the middle class, or at least exposed to the literacy practices demanded by better schools, often those outside of the township neighborhoods we studied. Our data suggests that both public access resources and mobile resources were most useful to those young people whose socio-technical networks were already extended beyond their local environment through attendance at non-local schools. We describe results from interviews, prompts, and observational exercises with resource-constrained teenage visitors to cybercafés and public libraries in Cape Town. We observed a split between a mobile habitus, focused on social coordination and communication, and a mobile production habitus, which included mobile resources in research and the creation of documents for school homework. Those we observed using the phones in this way were more likely to be on the peripheries of the middle class, or at least exposed to the literacy practices demanded by better schools, often those outside of the township neighborhoods we studied. Our data suggests that both public access resources and mobile resources were most useful to those young people whose socio-technical networks were already extended beyond their local environment through attendance at non-local schools.

 

Walton, M. and J. Donner. 2012. Spatial injustices and mobile communication: Patterns of internet access in urban South Africa. Paper presented at ICA 2012 (Phoenix, AZ. May 24-28, 2012). International Communication Association. Washington, DC

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