19 April 2008

Mobilephone relationships

The new relationships that we – or, at least, the youth today – are establishing using the latest mobile, telecom and Internet technologies are quite fascinating. My personal knowledge in this field is limited, but I’ve learnt a lot about the impact of technology and social media on today’s youth from reading published papers of Danah Boyd. Although most of her work concerns the American youth, Ms Boyd recently posted a story on her blog on how teen Palestinian girls are maintaining clandestine relationships with their boyfriends through mobilephones.

Ms Boyd’s post is based upon a published paper on this very subject, Playing With Fire (October 2007), by two scholars, Hiyam Hijazi-Omari and Rivka Ribak, from the University of Haifa, Israel. She states that the authors of the paper “examine how the mobile phone alters social dynamics, relationships, and the construction of gender in Palestine. In short, they document how culturally specific gendered practices (not technological features) frame the meaning and value of technology.”

The following quote from her blog tells the story in a nutshell:

“Palestinian boys give their girlfriends phones for the express purpose of being able to communicate with them in a semi-private manner without the physical proximity that would be frowned on. At the same time, girls know that parents do not approve of them having access to such private encounters with boys – they go to great lengths to hide their mobiles and suffer consequences when they are found out. While the boys offered these phones as a tool of freedom, they often came with a price. Girls were expected to only communicate with the boy and never use the phone for any other purpose… These girls develop fascinating practices around using the phone, hiding from people, and acquiring calling cards.”

You can read Danah Boyd’s blog post here. And, if you can spare the time, read the entire published paper, Playing With Fire (PDF version), by Hiyam Hijazi-Omari and Rivka Ribak, from the link provided on Ms Boyd’s blog.

[Citation: Palestinian girls, dating and the mobile phone, Danah Boyd, 14 April 2008.]

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