Sirpa Tenhunen: Mobile Technology, mediation and social change in rural India

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Drawing from her long-term fieldwork in rural India, Tenhunen’s talk develops our understanding of new media and social change.

She takes a theoretical approach to understand mobile phone usage in her forthcoming book (A village goes mobile: telephony, mediation and social change in rural India, Oxford University Press, 2018). Tenhunen presents two main arguments about mobile-telephony-mediated social change: First, she argues that mobile phone use contributes to changes in social logistics, which impacts practices in culturally specific ways. She maintains that economic liberalization and market operations have conditioned the ways mobile telephony have been designed and used to increase the logistical efficiency of economy and social relationships. In turn, these relationships influence culture in specific ways and serve to create novel speech contexts. Second, Tenhunen maintains that mobile phone use strengthens the heterogeneity of discourses by mediating the discourse and social interaction. She analyzes how phones help connect speech contexts, give callers new possibilities to choose the context for their speech, and allow them to engage in critical and unconventional discourses and actions. Tenhunen relates mobile communication to diverse social contexts and ongoing social changes, analyzing the relationship between mobile-phone-mediated conversations and other speech contexts and media.