Mobile Phones as Interactive Technologies Mediating Gendered Work-Life Conflict: A Qualitative Study on Women in STEM
The dominant literature on interactivity of mobile phones treats it as a feature of the device that is neutral and value-free. Mostly quantitative studies of interactivity consider it as a stable construct, devoid of the contexts that constitute it. Of particular interest is the nature of interactivity in women’s lives within patriarchal home and work spaces. Drawing on in-depth interviews with 35 women in STEM careers in Singapore, I depict the gendered nature of mobile phone use, situated amid patriarchal structures, familial roles, and cultural norms. Specifically I examine the ways in which the meanings of interactivity are constituted amid gendered familial, sociocultural, and organizational spaces. The participants offer a conceptual framework of interactivity that challenges the techno-deterministic literature positioning new technologies as emancipatory solutions. The interactive features on mobile phones reproduce and magnify the gendered challenges experienced by the participants, adding new forms of reproductive labour. Gendered expectations of housework extend to interactions with the mobile device, with the device shaping the frequency, duration, and immediacy of interactions. Moreover, these interactive features afford specific forms of male interactions such as informal work chat groups that exclude women and simultaneously serve as spaces of decision-making. Features such as video chats and text messages further magnify the erasure of women in STEM amid patriarchal STEM cultures. Similarly, social media constitute structures that shape gendered performances although positive interactions on social media are seen as coping resources.
KeywordsWomen in STEM Mediated technologies Work life negotiations Mobile phone Interactivity Global south
Funding for the present study was provided by the Department of Communication and New Media, National University of Singapore.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
I, Debalina Dutta, declare that there was no potential conflict of interest in this research.
Research Involving Human Participants and/or Animals
The research study was approved by Institutional Review Board, National University of Singapore. The reference number of the application is A-13-406.
Signed informed consent was obtained from the participants prior to the study in compliance IRB National University of Singapore guidelines
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