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Doctoral Project

Mobilities and Social Networks: Mapping Mobile Phone Use in Urban India
Sridevi Padmanabhan (M.Sc.)

Mobile communication and its foreseen impact on lives is a big part of the neo-liberal 'miracle rhetoric' (Rheingold, 2002). In India, mobile service providers are already shifting their focus to the largely untapped low-income and rural segment. Added to the mix are users whose relationship with the concept of mobility connects to control and power, or the lack of it (Sheller Urry, 2006).
This project aims to explore the 'kinship with machines' (Haraway, 1991), mobile phone use of individuals and the resulting changes in their social networks, identities, and idea of 'mobilities'.
The contention is that in the process of transforming concepts of time and space, mobile phone use also reconstitutes the social geography of an individual. The study will also investigate usage patterns of the mobile phone, and its connection to the changes in the way of life of people and the networks that surround them. How are traditional social practices, like peer influencers, finding a space in patterns of use of this relatively new communication technology?
The project will be based on a mix of ethnography, visual methods, and cultural studies, to follow the trajectory of mobile communication in people's lives. This mixed methods approach will be effective in mapping the fractured narratives of modernity, neo-liberal progress, class and status, and self-making through the prism of the mobile phone.