A short remark on (the type of) mobile phones in urban Kenya

When being asked about my PhD-research (which is on the meaning of mobile phones in urban Kenya), I all too often hear the question: „Do ‚they‘ have phones there?“

The short answer is: Yes.

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)

Remark: 
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.

Example of a "kabambe" (© Michael Waltinger, 2013)

Example of a „kabambe“ (© Michael Waltinger, 2013)

Field Research_basics seminar at Linnæus University (Växjö)

Linnéuniversitetet

Today, I had the great pleasure of holding a research seminar (högre seminarium) on the „Basics of Field Research“ at the wonderful Linnæus University (Linnéuniversitetet), one of Sweden’s newest and very well equipped and beautiful higher education institutions (founded from a merger of the Kalmar and Växjö universities in 2010).

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:

„Vi sällskapa
för mycket
med maskinerna
och för lite med oss själva“
(Elisabeth Bergstrand-Poulsen)

Free translation:

We hang out
too much
with machines
and too little with ourselves.

sällskapa med maskinerna

Presentation of the MediaMap-research method on the 32nd GMK-Forum on „Communication Culture“ in Cologne

KOMED_CologneKOMED-building in Cologne, Germany

I just got back from the really exciting and fruitful 32nd Forum on Communication Culture in Cologne (November 20th – 22nd 2015), which was on Communication cultures in digital worlds: concepts and strategies in media pedagogy and media education. The forum was hosted by the Society for Media Pedagogy and Communication Culture (GMK – Gesellschaft für Medienpädagogik und Kommunikationskultur).

Having been invited by Prof. Dr. Thomas Knaus (Scientific Director to the Frankfurt Research Center for Media Technology [FTzM]) to participate within his research workshop „Creative methods of researching digital communication cultures“, I had the great opportunity to discuss the „MediaMap“-research method that I developed in my ethnographic field research on the meanings of mobile phones in everyday life in urban Kenya (Nairobi).

A brief on the MediaMap-research method

The MediaMap

  • is an exploration of a qualitative media research-method that has developed from my ethnographic field research on the meanings of mobile phones in everyday life in urban Kenya (Nairobi)
  • it is a semi-structured, interactive combination of both an interview- and a mapping-method
  • it transcends the mere verbal level of interview-methods by adding a visual and a tactile layer
  • it aims for developing a holistic and contextualized understanding of media appropriation and media ecologies in their embedding in peoples everyday lives.

Below is a photograph of an example of a MediaMap as produced by a participant in my field research in Nairobi (Kenya):

example of a media map
© Michael Waltinger, 2014

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.