, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 41-48

The unpredictable mobile phone

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A year-long ethnographic study of the use of mobile phones in Jamaica was conducted during 2004. Our findings, which are almost the exact opposite of the expectations that appear in The Economist and other sources in early 2005, are that, in Jamaica at least, the phones are not used to obtain jobs or to help individuals become entrepreneurs. For quite different reasons, however, mobile phones have become central to the survival strategies of the lowest income population. To understand why this should be, we need to examine how the phone fits within other forms of communication, and how both the phone and the phone call are evaluated. This is tantamount to asking how one person values their communication with another and under what conditions does communication become an end in itself?