The mobile phone empowers women and gives them a sense of security. Mobile phone usage by women is threatening patriarchal system in homes. The mobile phone has left no distinction between public and private space.
These are some of the preliminary findings of a nine-month research by Professor Amit Rai on changing patterns in cell phone usage and the evolution of mobile technology in Mumbai and Delhi.
Rai, an associate professor for film, media and postcolonial studies at the Florida State University will give a public lecture on his work on the mobile phone culture in both cities on Tuesday.
“For women, the mobile phone has replaced pepper sprays. Their phone gives them the security that help is only a phone call away, especially late in the night,” said Rai. “I spoke to a 12-year-old who speaks in SMS language. A missed call on the cell phone is a language in itself."
On a Fullbright scholarship, a senior research fellowship, Rai is associated with the Centre for Media and Cultural Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Deonar.
With detailed interviews of 200 people in both cities comprising users, service providers, repairmen and industry professionals, Rai looked at the various impacts of mobile usage — from how the cell phone has helped increase intimacy among people to how consumerism has penetrated society because of the large number of cell phone users.
“The mobile phone market is very competitive and has been growing at an exponential rate. In 2008, 28 per cent of the population used cell phones, today 49 per cent use them,” said Rai. “The mobile phone is a technology of potential. I am hoping to understand new habits and perceptions coming through technology.”
Designed as a two-year qualitative research, Rai will look for funding for the remaining duration. At the end of two years, the research findings will be correlated with secondary literature and official reports from mobile companies.
“The mobile is used for social networking as well as professionally. It therefore goes to show that there have been innovations around its use,” said Rai. “There is no such thing as wasting time if one is on a cell phone.”