Waltinger, Michael (2018): Das Mobiltelefon im Alltagsleben des urbanen Kenia. Eine medienethnografische Studie zur Mobiltelefonaneignung. [The mobile phone in urban Kenyan everyday-life. A media ethnography on mobile phone appropriation.]Wiesbaden: Springer VS, 435 pages. Book details and table of contents [in German] available via Springer VS. ISBN: 978-3-658-25220-5. 49,99 € [Softcover] / 39,99 € [eBook].
Abstract In this media ethnography, Michael Waltinger describes the appropriation of mobile phones in the everyday life of an urban community in Eastlands Nairobi (Kenya). As its vantage point, the fieldwork studies people’s socio-structural living conditions in order to see how these are a pre-condition for and intertwined with everyday media appropriation. This is to contextualize social action on the micro-level of the subject with the larger societal macro-structure in which media action is embedded. Everyday phone usage in the urban community of the ethnography spans different spheres of life in multifaceted ways. While the mobile phone is perceived as an ambivalent artifact that interacts with peoples life-worlds in both positive and negative ways, it undeniably is an integrative part of the ‘way of life’ in contemporary urban Nairobi: among others, the mobile phone is a symbol for being part of the ‘global village’, it is a culturally codified and polysemic sign of social distinction, and it is a significate of a locally defined afro-modernity.
In my field research on The mobile phone in urban Kenyan everyday-life, I have developed a qualitative media research method that was used to collect empirical data from the field. A fully developed article on how the MediaMap exactly works as well as its theoretical and methodological framing has now been published as a book chapter:
Waltinger, Michael (2017): Die MediaMap – Eine explorative Forschungsmethode zur Entwicklung einer kontextualisierten Mediennutzungsperspektive. [The Media Map – An explorative method for researching media usage in context.]In: Knaus, Thomas (ed.): Forschungswerkstatt Medienpädagogik. Projekt – Theorie – Methode [Media Pedagogy Research Workshop: Projects – Theories – Methods.]. München: kopaed, pp. 253 – 286.
A slightly longer answer, with a bit more of an interpretive touch, may well be given by a participant of my field research – the person here talks about what happens if you get robbed (which might happen in Nairobi), and a robber ‘catches’ you with a cheap mobile phone (referred to as a kabambe in Nairobi):
Nowadays, if you walk with a kabambe, they [the thieves] even beat you up. Coz it can´t be that nowadays in Nairobi someone can walk without or doesn´t have a smartphone. field research participant (2014)
The word kabambe in Kiswahili refers to a very basic mobile phone, often not even a feature phone. A kabambe is typically locked to be used with one specific provider only. Its main functions usually are calling and texting – maybe also a calender, calculator and FM radio.
It was a great and inspiring seminar with fruitful discussion that I have enjoyed very much. I would like to also take this opportunity to once again thank the University for the invitation. I will gladly come back anytime.
The University is located in Växjö, which in itself is a very picturesque university town in Småland, Southern Sweden. Although todays seminar was not on the Sociology of Technology or Media Education, an engraving on one of the cities pavements reminds us:
och för lite med oss själva”
We hang out
and too little with ourselves.
A fully developed article on how the MediaMap exactly works as well as its theoretical and methodological framing will be published towards the end of 2016. If you are interested in the method or have any questions in the meantime, you are more than welcome to get in touch anytime.