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Media #anthro e-seminar starting now: “Migrant workers’ use of ICTs for interpersonal communication”

April 20, 2010

** via EASA Media Anthropology Network list **


Dear All

Welcome to another EASA Media Anthropology Network e-seminar! Over the next two weeks we’ll be discussing through this mailing list a working paper by Minu Thomas and Sun Sun Lim entitled “Migrant workers’ use of ICTs for interpersonal communication – The experience of female domestic workers in Singapore.” You will find the abstract below and can download the full paper here:

Minu Thomas completed her MA at the Communications and New Media Programme, National University of Singapore. She is currently working in India as an education services professional.

Sun Sun LIM (PhD, LSE) is Assistant Professor at the Communications and New Media Programme, National University of Singapore. She studies technology domestication and charts media ethnographies in Asia, having conducted research in China, Japan, South Korea and Singapore . She has articles published and forthcoming in the Journal of Computer Mediated Communication, New Media & Society, Communications of the ACM, Telematics & Informatics, Journal of Electronic Commerce Research, Asian Journal of Communication, East Asian Science, Technology and Society and Science, Technology and Society. She also sits on Singapore’s Internet and Media Advisory Committee and the National Youth Council.

On this occasion our discussant is Mirca Madianou who is a Lecturer in the Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Lucy Cavendish College. She is the author of Mediating the Nation (UCL Press/Routledge, 2005) and several other articles on news audiences, nationalism, transnationalism and the media. She is currently engaged in an ESRC-funded project entitled ‘Migration, ICTs and Transnational Families’ which is a collaboration with Daniel Miller and focuses on UK-based Filipino and Caribbean migrants and their left-behind families.

As is by now customary, the session will start with our discussant’s comments posted to the list later today or by tomorrow morning GMT. The presenters will then respond to those comments, after which the discussion will be open to the floor for further questions and comments.

To post your thoughts, simply write directly to the list (medianthro at with no attachments once the floor is open. If your post doesn’t reach the list please let me know offlist rather than resending it, as our listserv sometimes works in mysterious ways.

Looking forward to a productive session, I’d now like to invite Mirca to post her comments




This paper explores ICT use by Indian and Filipino female migrant workers who are employed as live-in maids in Singapore through ethnographic interviews with twenty women. Their particular employment circumstances translate into a circumscribed and isolated living and working experience which makes their access and use of ICTs even more significant. Our findings show that these women employ a variety of technologies for everyday communication, including letters, the mobile phone and the Internet, with the mobile phone being the most crucial communication device for most of them. Mobile communications enable them to foster emotional links with their friends and family, grow their social networks and afford them greater autonomy in seeking better job opportunities and the management of their personal matters. The paper concludes by making three policy recommendations aimed at improving ICT access for migrant workers. First, upon arrival in their host countries, all migrant workers should be educated about the access, use and cost of different communication devices and services available to them. Second, contracts between employers and migrant workers should have clear provisions for the employees’ rights to communication and specifically, mobile communications. Third, governments, non-governmental organisations and the private sector should actively seek to narrow the technological divide between migrant workers’ home and host countries so that these workers’ communications with individuals and organisations in their home countries are not impeded.

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