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Shared and Sometimes Stealthy: Urban India's Mobile Phone

Molly Steenson (Princeton University School of Architecture)
City Tech, Mobile and The Web
Location: Empire Room
Average rating: ***..
(3.00, 2 ratings)

The mobile phone is usually considered a personal and private device, one that belongs to and is used by an individual. But the reality in urban India is quite different. Instead, people share mobile phones in rich ways and in different contexts, regardless of class level.

A variety of social and spatial considerations shape mobile phone sharing. In an ethnographic study conducted at Microsoft Research India, we found layers of mobile phone sharing in four different contexts, from the domestic, to the out-and-about in the city, to the marketplace, and within a rural village to urban ecology. Each urban, spatial situation offered surprising insights into how people shared their devices.

This study is relevant to Emerging Technology attendees because of its behavioral insights into mobile phone use in an emerging market context. But also, its general insights provide a different way of thinking of the mobile phone in an urban context, as a shared device.

Molly Steenson

Princeton University School of Architecture

Molly Wright Steenson is a design and architectural researcher who studies interactivity, responsiveness, and mobility in architecture and is pursuing a PhD in architecture at Princeton University. Molly cut her teeth on social technology in 1992 and on the web in 1994. As a design researcher, her projects have included a study with Microsoft Research India on mobile phone sharing and for another major technology client, on how social networking technologies will change people’s friendships in China and the UK. Molly was Associate Professor of Connected Communities at the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea in Italy and also was a co-founder of the groundbreaking women’s webzine, Maxi, in the 1990s. She blogs at Active Social Plastic and continues to work on design strategy for mobile, web, and urban-scale projects.

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Picture of John Fitzpatrick
John Fitzpatrick
03/12/2009 11:31am PDT

I really liked this topic. I think the presentation could have been stronger.

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