Mobile Communication and the Family

Part of the series Mobile Communication in Asia: Local Insights, Global Implications pp 51-69


Helping the Helpers: Understanding Family Storytelling by Domestic Helpers in Singapore

  • Kakit CheongAffiliated withNational University of Singapore Email author 
  • , Alex MitchellAffiliated withNational University of Singapore

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The recording and sharing of family stories remains an important aspect of what it means to be a “family”. Existing research has shown that such stories help family members maintain close bonds. Additionally, the sharing of personal experiences can help family members create and present individual and family identities. Traditionally, these stories are shared face-to-face. However, for a variety of reasons, more families are geographically distributed. While there has been extensive research into how migrant workers make use of ICTs for social support or interpersonal communication, there remains a gap in understanding how these workers use ICTs specifically for family storytelling. To address this, we conducted two rounds of ethnographic interviews with 25 Filipino domestic helpers in Singapore. At the same time, we sought to examine the types of stories these women currently share. As such, we deployed cultural probe packs which consisted of a disposable camera and writing materials. The interview findings show that factors such as cost or limited access to technology resulted in fewer opportunities for family storytelling. In addition, interviewees also described themselves to have “nothing interesting to share” and that they were “unable to do more” in terms of sharing their experiences with their families back home. Interestingly, the cultural probe findings suggest that this perception may not always be accurate, as evidenced by how the participants were able to reflect upon their daily lives and record numerous personal experiences using the probes.


Mobile phones Family storytelling Domestic helpers Migrant workers Cultural probes