Skip to content

Mobile rewards: a critical review of the Mobiles for Development (M4D) literature

March 9, 2010

EASA2010: Crisis and imagination (24/08/2010 – 27/08/2010)

Media Anthropology Network workshop: The Rewards of Media

Paper Title: Mobile rewards: a critical review of the Mobiles for Development (M4D) literature

Francisco Osorio and John Postill
Sheffield Hallam University


The extraordinary rate of diffusion and adoption of mobile phones across the global South over the past decade has given rise to a new interdisciplinary field known as Mobiles for Development (M4D). The key debate in the field is whether mobile phones are having any significant impact on the economic livelihoods of marginalised people living in regions such as Africa, Asia and Latin America. Positions range from those who argue that mobiles are finally enabling poor people to overcome the digital divide to those who suggest that mobiles are in fact exacerbating old inequalities, through a number of in-between positions, including that of scholars who argue that only some low-income people (e.g. micro-entrepreneurs) are reaping the economic rewards of mobile phones. This paper is a critical review of the multilingual, peer-reviewed M4D literature on this unresolved debate from 2001 to 2010. Drawing from the theory of practice, we search for novel ways of mapping the shifting rewards of mobile practices under conditions of rapid change. The two main working assumptions are that mobile phones have blurred the lines between lives and livelihoods (Donner 2009) and that the rewards of mobile practices in the global South are of many different kinds (financial, social, expressive, sensual, etc., Warde 2005) and not solely ‘for development’.

See full list of proposals here

5 Comments leave one →
  1. March 9, 2010 5:26 pm

    That looks terrific – any way to read the paper when it’s ready? No EASA for this grounded American.

    • March 9, 2010 6:43 pm

      Thanks a lot Adam. I’ll put the paper online and throw a link in here nearer the date.

      • March 10, 2010 9:33 am

        PS We’ll try to get all other workshop papers online as well in good time.

  2. Joseph Oduro-Frimpong permalink
    March 20, 2010 9:51 am

    Hi John:
    Looking forward to reading this paper. Currently in Ghana for my 8-month fieldwork.


    • March 20, 2010 10:08 am

      All the best with your fieldwork, Frimpong, and you’re always welcome to send us a report from the field as an invited blog post!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: