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Mobile Communication and the Family - Asian Experiences in Technology Domestication



This volume captures the domestication of mobile communication technologies by families in Asia, and its implications for family interactions and relationships. It showcases research on families across a spectrum of socio-economic profiles, from both rural and urban areas, offering insights on children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly. While mobile communication diffuses through Asia at a blistering pace, families in the region are also experiencing significant changes in light of unprecedented economic growth, globalisation, urbanisation and demographic shifts. Asia is therefore at the crossroads of technological transformation and social change. This book analyses the interactions of these two contemporaneous trends from the perspective of the family, covering a range of family types including nuclear, multi-generational, transnational, and multi-local, spanning the continuum from the media-rich to the media have-less.
Running head: Asymmetries in Asian families’ technology domestication
Asymmetries in Asian families’ domestication of mobile communication
Sun Sun Lim1
A low waged Indian migrant worker in Cambodia diligently saves up to buy his wife
back home a mobile phone, thus raising her status among her in-laws. A mother in Vietnam
demands that her daughter, a university student in Singapore, be constantly contactable by
phone. A toddler in Indonesia knows that if she wants to play games on a mobile device, she
will have greater luck approaching her father than her mother.
What do these families from diverse parts of Asia, avidly incorporating mobile
communication into their daily lives, have in common? In a word, asymmetries. As powerful,
portable media devices such as smartphones and tablets diffuse across the region at an
unparalleled rate, families in Asia are coming to terms with the many asymmetries that these
gadgets herald. The simple matter of who owns or pays for a mobile device can introduce
power asymmetries in a family, enabling one member to impose conditions on another.
Expectation asymmetries have also emerged with regard to one’s contactability, with some
parents demanding that their children respond to every call or message, and some children
perceiving such intrusions as surveillance. Practice asymmetries also result when parents
(and extended family) inconsistently apply rules surrounding children’s use of mobile
Many more asymmetries abound, such as those pertaining to access, competencies
and values. Access asymmetries are characteristic of transnational families, where the family
member residing abroad often enjoys higher standards of connectivity than those back
home, and must resourcefully bridge the gap to ensure seamless communication. Even
when access divides can be narrowed, competency asymmetries persist wherein some
family members simply lack the technical skills to benefit from the affordances of more
advanced channels of information and communication. Value asymmetries are also evident
when family members cannot agree on whether mobile communication devices are the
gateway to knowledge and academic achievement, or the path to deleterious distraction.
My focus on asymmetries is a deliberate one. Because mobile communication
devices are deeply personal, but are also vested with a remarkable combination of
instrumentality and emotionality, their entry into a household will inevitably provoke
alternating reactions of anticipation and dread, efficacy and inadequacy, liberation and
enslavement, joy and drudgery. Within every home, these emotional dualities will pervade, in
varying degrees, each family member’s experience of domesticating mobile devices, making
the asymmetries even more palpable. Families in Asia are constantly negotiating such
asymmetries, developing strategies to manage the growing presence of mobile
communication devices and their expanding repertoire of locative and social media
functions. No aspect of family life is untouched by mobile communication as households
employ its myriad affordances for communication, information, entertainment, the nurturance
of familial bonds, and the organisation of everyday routines.
The significant impact of mobile communication in Asia thus justifies a book that
focuses on this disruptive technology, but from the perspective of the family. However, just
as mobile communication constantly evolves, families in Asia are also experiencing
1, National University of Singapore
Running head: Asymmetries in Asian families’ technology domestication
significant changes in light of unprecedented economic growth, globalisation, urbanisation
and demographic shifts (Hennon & Wilson, 2008). Asia is therefore at the crossroads of
technological transformation and social change, and this book aims to capture the
interactions of these two contemporaneous trends. This collection showcases research on
Asian families across a spectrum of socio-economic profiles, from both rural and urban
areas, offering perspectives on children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly. As well, the
different chapters feature a range of family types including nuclear, multi-generational,
transnational, and multi-local, spanning the continuum from the media-rich to the media
have-less. These families’ varied yet convergent experiences illuminate how mobile
communication is influencing family interactions and shaping the bonds on which familial
relationships are built.
Technology domestication in the mobile age
Undeniably, mobile communication devices have inveigled their way into the
domestic space, to the point of being “taken for granted” (Ling, 2012). Yet the impact that
these devices have on families can hardly be taken for granted, much less unquestioningly
accepted. As Clark (2014) observed, mobile media “mediate, symbolise, and disrupt or
reinforce the social relations of the family”( p. 329). In this regard, technology domestication
offers a valuable conceptual apparatus for understanding the superimposition of
technological structures over the complexities of family dynamics.
Now into its fourth decade, the concept of technology domestication can truly come
into its own, in an era where mobile communication devices have embedded computing
power and internet connectivity into more households than ever before. As both an analytical
framework and a methodological approach, technology domestication was a significant
departure from earlier “rational, linear, monocausal and technologically determined” (Berker,
Hartmann, Punie & Ward, 2006, p. 1) frames of studying technology adoption. Instead, the
concept exhorts researchers to look beyond the transactional and procedural dimensions of
technology adoption, and to focus on the intangible aspects of what is fundamentally an
individualised, amorphous and haphazard process. In so doing, researchers can distil the
meanings that users inscribe in and ascribe to technologies by capturing their narratives and
Much has been written about the four processes that occur when a technology is
introduced into a household: appropriation, objectification, incorporation and conversion
(Silverstone, Hirsch & Morley, 1992), but a brief review here would be appropriate. Broadly,
the concept argues that objectification and incorporation take place within the internal realm
of the household, while appropriation and conversion extend the boundaries of the
household into the outside world. In appropriation, individuals or households take
possession of objects and assign them meanings. Objectification is also likely to occur,
where these objects are subsequently used or displayed in the home, thus embodying the
values of their owners and users. Incorporation is the process by which objects are
integrated into the quotidian rhythms of the household, performing both affective and
mechanical functions. Conversion in turn connects the household’s moral economy with the
public sphere, and information and communication technologies (ICTs) exist as both objects
and facilitators of conversion (and conversation).
All these processes take place against the backdrop of the moral economy of the
household. Silverstone et al referred to it as “an economy of meanings and a meaningful
Running head: Asymmetries in Asian families’ technology domestication
economy” (1992, p. 18) wherein the household is an economic unit in its own right, ordering
its economic and social activities according to a set of shared values and beliefs. Therefore,
through the production and consumption activities of family members, the household
becomes a part of the public economy. These economic activities within the household and
the larger public economy are in turn influenced by the morals undergirding the family.
As a concept, technology domestication has had considerable reach, having been
applied to the study of different family contexts in Europe and North America including
nuclear families (e.g. Hirsch, 1992) and single parent households (e.g. Haddon &
Silverstone, 1995), shedding light on parent-child relationships (e.g. Pasquier, 2001) and
gender roles (e.g. Frissen, 1997) vis-à-vis ICTs. Previous research has also targeted specific
age groups, including children (e.g. Livingstone, 2002), young adults (e.g. Hartmann, 2005)
and the elderly (e.g. Haddon & Silverstone, 1996). With regard to the technological
devices/services studied, some studies took an encompassing approach by including all
technologies within the home, while others focused on a single technological device such as
the computer (e.g. Aune, 1996), or the Internet (e.g. Bakardjieva, 2005). When I first began
my research on technology domestication by Chinese and Korean households (Lim, 2006;
2008), the concept had not been widely applied to Asian contexts. Previous research on
technology appropriation in the home had been conducted, although not necessarily
informed by the domestication framework, such as in China (notably, Lull, 1991), Japan (e.g.
Kanayama, 2003), Korea (e.g. Yoon, 2003) and Singapore (e.g. Lim & Tan, 2004).
Despite the broad range of its application, several aspects of technology
domestication have been found wanting. Early criticisms that domestication tended to study
only conventional families (parents with children in close propinquity) have since been
addressed with research on a mutiplicity of family types and constitutions, including in this
volume. Further suggestions for refinement include a sharpened focus on the “emotional
work” that drives the moral economy of the family (Clark, 2014). A more persistent issue with
domestication research relates to the “double articulation” of media as “specific technologies:
they are both objects and conveyer of messages” (Hartmann, 2006, p. 85). The challenge
then is to comprehensively examine media content in tandem with the media context, and to
effectively analyse their mutual interactions. Existing research tends to privilege one
dimension over the other, with few being able to successfully study both in equal measure.
To be sure, methodological constraints and ethical concerns prevent more sustained and
invasive fieldwork that can facilitate greater insight into the untidy complexities of the
domestic realm. The studies featured in this volume utilise a range of methods including
interviews, ethnography, observation, diaries, cultural probes and media deprivation. By
critically assessing each of these methods and the data they yield for their respective
settings, we can seek to develop a methodological matrix that outlines the relative strengths
and weaknesses of each research approach for studying the adoption of mobile
communication, so that both content and context can well captured. Such efforts will help to
resolve this perennial concern of technology domestication research.
Values / Intimacies / Strategies
While not all of the chapters in this volume apply the concept of technology
domestication, they have embraced its spirit of exploring the meaning that mobile
communication holds for families, beyond a mere account of its practical benefits and costs.
The chapters are organised according to three themes: values, intimacies and strategies,
although there are many instances where all three themes intersect in interesting ways.
Running head: Asymmetries in Asian families’ technology domestication
The three chapters in the first section centre around the values that form the core of
families’ moral economies. Tom McDonald (Chapter 2) studied the use of mobile phones in
a rural Chinese town, examining the relationship between mobile communication
technologies and education. His ethnographic data shows that for these rural families,
education is the springboard for upward mobility and is consequently their foremost priority.
His findings demonstrate how the mobile phone is the veritable lens through which societal
valorisation of educational achievement is reflected and indeed refracted, illuminating how
these everyday devices are not merely with vested technological capacity, but laden with
cultural values. Parents in rural environments view mobile phones, with their countless
diversions, as inimical to their children’s academic pursuits and therefore to be restricted.
But the young people find creative ways to circumvent such controls and actively use mobile
phones, recognising that these devices are indispensable for social networking, a key aspect
of education that they find their parents woefully ignorant of.
In contrast, the Muslim mothers in suburban Indonesia studied by Rahayu and Sun
Sun Lim (Chapter 3), are well aware of the growing importance of technology and want their
children to be IT literate. However, they also fear that negative online content may lead to
moral degradation, spiritual corruption and self-destruction in their children. Hence, they
seek to balance their practical outlook with their religious ideals by allowing their children
internet access while imposing mediation heavily informed by their faith. In Muslim families,
mothers are tasked with socialising children on Islamic beliefs and values, and these women
use their religious principles as a bulwark against the perceived harms of online content.
Their experience is indeed one of taming “wild technologies”, the metaphor that lends the
concept of technology domestication its name.
However, with domestication comes compliance, and previously alien technologies
can be coaxed into the service of the family, to aid in the nurturance of familial ties and the
inculcation of cherished values. Kakit Cheong and Alex Mitchell (Chapter 4) studied
Filipino domestic helpers working in Singapore, asking them what stories they told their
family members back home, and how they deployed mobile technologies in this process.
Family storytelling is known to help families maintain close bonds, shape shared identities
and even overcome adversity. Although these domestic helpers work in restrictive
conditions, they nevertheless marshal their limited mobile phone access to tell family
members stories that help to make sense of their physical separation, and to instil family
values and Christian doctrine in their left-behind children.
For transnational families in particular, whether their interaction relates to the lofty
inculcation of values, or to mundane daily updates, mobile communication is crucial for
forging intimacies and nourishing relationships. The three chapters in the second section
focus on such intimacies. Ravinder Kaur and Ishita Shruti (Chapter 5) sought to
understand how rural and urban transnational families are “doing family” with mobile
communication. They compared two groups of Indian migrants working in Cambodia - rural
and less educated single male migrants working as itinerant street vendors, and highly
educated professionals working in white collar jobs, some of whose family members are
scattered around the globe. The authors found that because education, income levels and
the cost of technologies shape these migrants’ access to technologies, professionals can
avail of more advanced technologies while the rural migrants make do with more basic
facilities. Across the two groups however, more regular communication enables them to
nurture deep affective bonds that help them to approximate, if not experience, the "family
Running head: Asymmetries in Asian families’ technology domestication
feeling". For the rural migrants in particular, mobile communication is the conduit for
renewing ties with the culture of their homeland, and for expressing care through sending
remittances to the family. For the professionals, multiple forms of mobile communication are
exploited so that their multi-local families can experience virtual togetherness despite being
geographically dispersed.
Indeed, the emotional geographies of transnational families can often be as complex
as their physical geographies. Kyong Yoon (Chapter 6) explored the communication
practices of South Korean families whose young adult children reside in Canada, while their
parents remained mostly in Korea. For these young people who had emigrated in their teen
years, being apart from their parents is a reality they have become accustomed to over
many years. Their default mode of interaction with their parents is via online channels and
some even prefer mediated to face-to-face interaction. They utilise a range of smartphone-
enabled services including KakaoTalk (messaging app), KakaoStory (for selfies and status
updates), Facebook, and video calls via Skype to enhance the sense of co-presence and to
foster a sense of belonging in the family. There is a fondness for ‘visual technologies’ such
as video calls and photographs that make it possible to ‘see’ one another, as well as the use
of humorous and cute emoticons to mediate tensions in online communication. Even so,
some respondents decry the misunderstandings that occasionally arise from mediated
interaction. Besides communication, parents also leverage smartphone functions for mobile
parenting, with mothers in particular using KakaoTalk to keep a watchful eye over their
children’s daily activities even across the miles.
Similarly, Vietnamese parents whose children are pursuing university studies in
Singapore also exercise parental oversight via mobile communication and social media.
Becky Pham and Sun Sun Lim (Chapter 7) investigated these Vietnamese migrant
students’ communication with their left-behind families and found that such remote
supervision, while born out of parental care and concern, is perceived by the children as
unwelcome surveillance. However, these students grudgingly accept rather than actively
resist such interference, recognising that their parents’ constant mediated presence helps
cushion them from the challenges of adapting to their host country. They experienced this
acutely when the study’s media deprivation condition required that they cease
communicating with their left-behind families for one week. Most of the students were
negatively affected by this loss of contact, feeling sad and distressed at the absence of their
parents’ emotional support, and anxious from not knowing about the well-being of their loved
ones. Notably however, this deprivation experience also highlighted to some students the
need to lean less on their parents and to develop emotional independence.
Ultimately therefore, all families that appropriate mobile communication are aware of
their impact on household dynamics and consciously or instinctively develop strategies to
manage the same, the theme of the remaining three chapters. Laras Sekarasih (Chapter 8)
probed parents of pre-schoolers in Indonesia to understand how they mediated their
children’s smartphone and tablet use. While these parents appreciate the educational,
entertainment, and “child-minding” benefits of these devices, they feel that health risks such
as eyestrain and physical inactivity, and exposure to violent or sexually explicit content, far
outweigh the gains. Most parents interviewed thus practise restrictive mediation on duration
and content, actively mediate by reasoning with the children, or steer them towards
alternative diversions. Effective mediation is however an ongoing challenge because both
parents may not be equally strict with the children, or other caregivers in the home are
Running head: Asymmetries in Asian families’ technology domestication
simply too permissive. In multi-generational settings, older family members such as
grandparents tend to be quick to indulge the children’s request for mobile device access,
thereby driving a wedge between parents and grandparents.
Navigating between the boon and bane of mobile communication is therefore a
salient thread coursing through the experiences of the many families featured in this volume.
Rosel San Pascual (Chapter 9) deals squarely with this issue by focusing on the paradoxes
surrounding the mobile communication of Filipino migrant mothers of teenaged children who
were working in Singapore. She identifies three main paradoxes:
independence/dependence, competence/incompetence, and empowerment/enslavement,
uncovering the equivocation with which these women use mobile communication for remote
parenting. While they treasure the independence that mobile communication grants them,
enabling them to work overseas while remaining connected to family, they also resent the
degree to which they are dependent on it. Indeed, they feel as much empowered by and
enslaved to these digital connections. Fundamentally, their negative feelings are rooted in
the doubts clouding over their own parenting. While gratified that they can parent from a
distance, they are also overwhelmed by societal expectations that only the mother who is by
her children’s side is the proverbial good mother (see also Soriano, Lim & Rivera, 2015 on
Philippine media representations that reinforce such norms). Despite such misgivings, these
women convince themselves that through the strategic use of mobile communication, they
can parent effectively and reach the best compromise for themselves and their children.
At every stage of the family’s development therefore, from when the children are very
young, through to their adolescence and emerging adulthood, families seek to manage and
exploit mobile communication in the interest of positive household dynamics. The book thus
concludes with an important prescription on how mobile technologies can be harnessed for
the care of older adults. Pin Sym Foong (Chapter 10) makes a compelling case for taking a
Life Course perspective in Human-Computer Interaction design for the elderly, proposing a
Gerotech Clock that depicts how the needs of older users vis-à-vis mobile technology evolve
over time. She also urges designers to be conscious of the distinction between age, life
stage, and cohort effects, because each factor would influence elderly users’ technological
competencies and adoption tendencies. She argues that when the elderly are relatively free
from physical impairment, mobile technology can be crafted to enhance their independence.
But once the elderly become reliant on caregivers from within and outside of the family,
technology design must take into account the needs and constraints of all parties, while
being sensitive to their relationship dynamics. She ends by challenging designers to cater to
the complex needs of ageing societies in our increasingly mobile landscape.
About this book series
Putting this book together has been gratifying in many ways. I had long recognised
the relative paucity of published research on mobile communication in Asia, despite the
technology’s growing importance in the region (Lim & Goggin, 2014). At the same time, I was
also aware of the vast number of researchers in the region whose innovative work had yet to
be published in the customary anglophone outlets, thereby circumscribing their contributions
to the broader academic mission –investigating the social impact of technology. In
developing this book series, I aim to showcase the work of emerging scholars for the wider
international audience, thereby introducing fresh perspectives to the global conversation on
the transformative effect of mobile communication. Hence the the series is entitled Mobile
Communication in Asia: Local Insights, Global Implications. I am heartened that Springer
Running head: Asymmetries in Asian families’ technology domestication
appreciates the merits of this endeavour and has thrown its support behind the series, as
have many colleagues who have committed to editing future volumes. In editing this first
volume in the series, I have had the privilege of mentoring and learning from emerging
scholars whose ground insights and and diverse perspectives will help to advance our
understanding of Asia’s increasingly complex sociotechnical morphology. Their valuable
contributions also signal that research on mobile communication in Asia is set to make a
long-term impact, both within the region and beyond.
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Chapters (10)

As powerful, portable media devices such as smartphones and tablets diffuse across the region at an unparalleled rate, families in Asia are coming to terms with the many asymmetries that these gadgets herald. Because mobile communication devices are deeply personal, but are also vested with a remarkable combination of instrumentality and emotionality, their entry into a household will inevitably provoke alternating reactions of anticipation and dread, efficacy and inadequacy, liberation and enslavement, and joy and drudgery. Within every home, these emotional dualities will pervade each family member’s experience of domesticating mobile devices, making asymmetries relating to power, expectations, practice, access, competencies, and values increasingly palpable. Families must therefore negotiate such asymmetries as they manage the growing presence of mobile communication devices and their expanding repertoire of locative and social media functions.
This chapter draws on ethnographic data to examine the relationship between mobile communication technologies (especially mobile phones) and learning in a small rural town in North China. Building on a wide body of literature that emphasises the enduring importance of education within Chinese culture, this chapter demonstrates how contemporary attitudes towards learning become constructed and expressed through mobile phone use. The chapter illustrates how most rural parents regard mobile phones as having an adverse impact on their offspring’s academic achievement and are keen to limit their usage. Young people nevertheless continue to find ways of accessing and using mobile phones, including creatively appropriating such devices for their own (formal and informal) learning. The chapter calls for greater consideration of the multiple domains of society that such technologies cut across – including school, family and elsewhere – in order to expose the specific instances where mobile telecommunications interact with educational ideals.
As technology adoption accelerates in Indonesia, the growing use of the internet by children has triggered moral panic and led to calls for greater parental mediation of children's internet use. Concerns typically cent around access to online pornography and other deleterious content. The polemic surrounding these issues has taken on a distinctly moralistic and religious tone in this predominantly Muslim country. Cultural and ideological norms in Indonesia dictate that within the household, mothers are to play a key role in the supervision of children, thus placing them at the forefront of this drive to inculcate positive internet use amongst their children. This study used in-depth interviews to explore the perceptions that Indonesian Muslim mothers have of the internet, the strategies they employ to mediate the internet for their children and how their religious beliefs influence these strategies. We found that mothers actively manage their children's internet consumption, and devise different mediation strategies to ensure that their children use the internet in ways that are congruent with Islamic principles. The more religious families strive to strengthen their faiths to meet the onslaught of un-Islamic internet and media content, while less devout Muslims see online media as beneficial and horizon-broadening, and thereby welcome rather than resist them.
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.
This chapter compares and contrasts the use of mobile and internet technologies among two sets of Indian migrants in Cambodia. One set consists of rural and less educated single male migrants from eastern India, while the other comprises highly educated professionals generally migrating with family from across the country. Education, income levels and the cost of technologies at the destination country shape migrants’ access to technologies, with the professionals using more sophisticated technologies and the rural migrants depending more on simpler and commercially available public facilities. We use the trope of “doing family” to explore the transformations in the nature of communication between migrants and various left-behind family members. More frequent and timely communication allows migrants to produce intense affective bonds that regenerate the “family feeling” required to reproduce the family as a transnational corporation of kin. Especially for the rural migrants, ICTs enable faster and more frequent financial remittances, underlining their character as a “currency of care”; additionally, they help strengthen homeland culture and occasionally subvert gender and age hierarchies. Among the professionals, globalised, multilocal families are able to keep in constant touch, mitigating in part the pain of separation.
Drawing on in-depth interviews with the young adult children of South Korean transnational families in Canada, this chapter explores how the family is reimagined in the mediated, mobile, transnational communication between family members. In the chapter, the smartphone is examined as an assemblage involving earlier media forms and experiences and is thus contextualized in relation to other information communication technologies (ICTs). In addition, the present study addresses the popular use of the Korean-developed communication app, KakaoTalk, among the transnational family members. Furthermore, it explores how the smartphone engages with the preexisting norms of family communication. The research offers insight into how family interaction is technologically mediated across transnational contexts while questioning the technologically deterministic perspective that overestimates the role of mobile technologies in transnational virtual families.
As globalization continues unabated, migration in general and student migration in particular have intensified worldwide. Mobile communication technologies are important links between migrant students and their left-behind family and friends. This chapter seeks to highlight the complex relationships between the students' migrant status and their technology use, as well as between technology and the family in Vietnamese transnational households. This chapter presents contextualised accounts of three Vietnamese migrant students' media use over a two-week period, drawing from data from a one-week media monitoring exercise, a one-week media deprivation exercise, semi-structured interviews and daily media diaries. The study found that the Vietnamese migrant students appropriated a variety of communication technologies to connect with their home country, which helped to energise family interactions, sustain family ties and facilitate parental and sibling mediation, thereby supporting bonding within Vietnamese transnational families. Moreover, the technologies also helped the students to build social capital with their left-behind friends in Vietnam.
Using qualitative interviews for data-gathering, this study investigated how parents with young children (aged 2–7) in Indonesia’s greater Jakarta area mediated their children’s use of mobile communication devices. Parents introduce their children to smartphones or tablets for educational, entertainment, as well as “babysitting” purposes. However, parents’ perceptions about online risks seem to outweigh those of benefits. Potential health issues, such as eyestrain and sedentary lifestyles, and exposure to violent content were seen as the most salient risks. Restrictive mediation on time and content was the most prevalent approach practiced, perhaps due to the age of the children and the lack of time and energy among working parents. In reaction to the children’s resistance to time restrictions, parents with older children attempted to reason with the children and engage in parent–child conversations, while those with younger children preferred to redirect them to other activities.
This chapter illuminates the paradoxes in the mobile parenting experiences of Filipino mothers in diaspora as it describes the attempts of these migrant mothers to parent their children in spite of their spatial and temporal separation. Three pairs of paradoxes were uncovered from the author’s analysis of the interviews conducted among 32 Singapore-based Filipino working mothers about their mediated parenting experiences: the independence/dependence paradox, competence/incompetence paradox, and empowerment/enslavement paradox. The exposed paradoxes indicate that the mobile parenting experiences of these migrant mothers are not entirely celebratory as positive mediated experiences coexist with negative ones. And yet, for these migrant mothers, even though mobile parenting engenders paradoxes in mediated experiences, they nonetheless regard it as the best response to the situation imposed by their transnational separation.
In gerontology and geriatrics, the life course perspective is a well-established and fruitful approach to the study of older adults. In this chapter, a case is made for the inclusion of the life course perspective in the field of human-computer interaction (HCI) for older adults. A quadrant analysis on the axes of age and wellness was conducted. This resulted in the creation of a Gerotech clock depicting four phases of older adults as users of mobile computers – maintaining, compensating, coping and caring. Each of these phases was examined for ways in which the life course perspective could inform the study of older adults. Three potential research areas were uncovered. Firstly, the transition from older adults being relatively mobile to having impairments was identified as a rich space for the identification of choice points in which older adults adapt their use of mobile technologies. Secondly, caregivers of older adults were identified as a poorly understood user group that offered a critical challenge to the long-standing HCI concepts of user and primary user. Thirdly, with the use of demographic and epidemiological data in Singapore, the complex of challenges that family caregivers of older adults face was explained. Informed by the life course perspective, a research agenda that seeks to understand the technological needs of older adults and their caregivers within the site of the family is proposed.
... What one can glean from these works is that the quality of digital media access is central to the process of migrant parents and left-behind children domesticating mobile technologies, within which the dynamics of glocal intimacies are crystallised. Here, we see the emergence of 'asymmetrical communication' (Lim, 2016). This pertains to the entanglement of the different family members' attempts to deploy communication technologies for their personal purposes and of their family's shared ideals, practices, and values. ...
... The online lives of elite Filipinos clearly stand apart from those in the lower income clusters. As we discussed earlier, many of those in the lower socioeconomic strata of the Philippines are familiar with the experience of uneven access creating 'power geometries' (Massey, 1994), 'asymmetrical communication' (Lim, 2016), and an 'aspirational geography of the online' (Arora and Scheiber, 2017). In contrast, global connections for elite Filipinos are part of their everyday. ...
... Second is Juliet, a 42-year-old nanny in the USA and her 17year-old daughter and 20-year-old son in the Philippines. Their experiences are illustrative of the kind of uneven access experienced by OFWs and, importantly, the resultant 'power geometries' (Massey, 1994) and 'asymmetrical communication' (Lim, 2016) such an access brings. Because both Vicky and Juliet have become the breadwinners in the family, they have also managed to possess greater control of their mobile mediated communication. ...
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This article looks at mobile media access in the Philippines and the kind of social intimacies that have emerged from it. To frame our discussion, we use the concept of ‘glocal intimacies’. This pertains to how mobile technologies have normalised and intensified the entanglement of people’s relationships of closeness with the ever-shifting and constantly negotiated flows between global modernity and local everyday life. We show that the uneven access that Filipinos have has led to equally uneven ways in which they imagine and enact intimate relationships. Drawing on case studies emblematic of the country’s key income clusters, we point out the emergence of a contradictory situation, wherein those with relatively high-quality access are those who are least dependent on mobile media for their glocal intimacies. Meanwhile, those with relatively low-quality access are those who are actually most dependent on mobile-mediated communication for such intimacies.
... This constant connectivity afforded by ICTs also give rise to digital surveillance of one another's whereabouts and daily life routines between transnational family members (e.g, Cabanes & Acedera, 2012;Chib, Malik, Aricat, & Kadir, 2014;Hannaford, 2015;Madianou, 2016). Moreover, ICTs can also introduce new dimensions of inequalities between transnational family members in terms of differential accessibility to technological infrastructures, quality of communication digital skills and so forth (e.g, Benítez, 2012;Cabalquinto, 2018;Horst, 2006;Lim, 2016;Parreñas, 2005). ...
... Apart from emotional labours derived from the polymedia and perpetual connectivity lifestyle, ICTs also created new dimensions of inequalities within transnational households. Unlike many other transnational families suffering from unequal access to ICT infrastructures and quality of mediated communication (e.g., Cabalquinto, 2018;Cheong & Mitchell, 2016;Madianou, 2014;Parreñas, 2005), the study mothers and their remote family members were beleaguered by more invisible and nuanced 'digital asymmetries' (Lim, 2016) characterized by gaps in routines, emotional experiences as well as outcomes of ICT use (Wang & Lim, forthcoming). In particular, digital asymmetries could emerge when a study mother resorted to asking her adolescent child to set up video calls with remote family members ('competency asymmetry'), while she waited a long time to receive a perfunctory greeting from her left-behind husband ('expectation asymmetry'), and when she unconsciously arranged every video call according to the work schedule of her husband instead of her own preferences and needs ('autonomy asymmetry'). ...
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In contemporary society, information and communication technologies (ICTs) are widely cherished for helping transnational households preserve a coherent sense of familyhood despite geographical separation. By virtue of the constant connectivity bestowed by ICTs, international migrants and their left-behind family members can remain involved in the mundane experiences of each other's everyday lives and perform familial responsibilities from afar on a daily basis. However, the same polymedia environment that serves as the 'social glue of transnationalism' can also bring about deficiencies and potential negative implications for family functioning and well-being of family members. Drawing on both literature review and empirical evidence, this chapter seeks to provide a comprehensive insight into the dual role of ICTs in shaping life experiences of transnational families. The empirical case study presented in the chapter is derived from a two-year ethnographic research on ICT domestication by a group of Chinese migrant mothers in Singapore.
... Mobile devices can constitute interesting tools to balance the dialectical tensions between preadolescents' needs for individuation and continued parental support as they enable more perpetual and flexible communication practices. The interplay between preadolescents' evolving emotional and social development, as well as their personal possession of mobile devices, could therefore incite changes in the communication practices between children and their parents (Lim, 2016), making it an interesting period to examine the social outcomes of mobile device use. ...
... While previous studies have established the significance of self-disclosure in peer relationships, both in offline (e.g., Bauminger, Finzi-Dottan, Chason, & Har-Even, 2008), as well as in online environments (e.g., Park, Jin, & Jin, 2011;Utz, 2015), the current study extends these findings to the family context. Indeed, mobile devices could profoundly shape communication practices by enabling an immediate and personal connection between family members (Lim, 2016). Even when parents are not around, preadolescents have the opportunity to stay in touch through their device, while features such as emojis could potentially aid preadolescents to express more easily their personal thoughts and feelings. ...
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This study explored the social repercussions of preadolescents’ mobile device use within the family context by testing two opposing predictions regarding the impact of technology on the quality of interpersonal relationships. Specifically, we examined whether smartphone and tablet use was positively related to preadolescents’ self-disclosure to their parents and/or displaced family time, which we hypothesized to be related to children’s satisfaction with family life. Results of a cross-sectional survey (n = 698, 49.6% girls, Mage= 10.9, SD = 0.69) provided support for both hypotheses, thus corroborating the presence of at least two diverging pathways that underlie this relationship. Although mobile device use seemed to foster a context that supported children’s self-disclosure to their parents, results also indicated a negative and indirect association through children’s perceived family time. This negative pathway, however, did not hold when social use among children and parents (e.g., playing games together online) was considered separately.
... Finally, research on children and media has demonstrated that beyond the differential characteristics of individual children and their families, it is highly valuable to examine the cultural contexts in which they are grounded (Livingstone and Sefton-Green 2016). Families with different demographic features-class, religion, ethnicity, etc.-may have different structures and communication patterns, thus integrating media in their lives in very different ways (Lim 2016). Consequently, studying this phenomenon across a variety of settings in two different countries could help determine which aspects are inherited in grandparental mediation of grandchildren's use of media across various social contexts and which are uniquely grounded in cultural differences. ...
... Finally, we should bear in mind that the grandparents in the US recollected being more highly involved in mediation in the past, when they were parents of young children, which might also explain their higher involvement in mediation in the present. In any case, the findings support previous arguments about the significance of different demographics and contexts in mediation practices (Lim 2016;Livingstone and Sefton-Green 2016). ...
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This study aimed at revealing the factors determining grandparental mediation of their grandchildren's screen viewing and interactive media use, based on online surveys conducted among 291 American and 356 Israeli grandparents who reported taking care of 2-to-7 years old grandchildren at least once a week. Past mediation, familiarity with children's media, parental instructions and joint leisure activities were positively associated with mediation of both interactive and non-interactive media use, whereas country of residence was not significantly associated with mediation. These findings provide initial knowledge about the universal aspects of grandparental mediation in early childhood.
... Scholars have identified asymmetrical social and technological factors (Cabalquinto, 2018b;Leurs, 2014;Lim, 2016;Wilding, 2006) generating "immobilities" in digital exchanges. For instance, gendered and familial expectations often compel migrants to voluntarily choose to remove or not share personal social media posts and sustain a sense of closeness among kins (Cabalquinto, 2018;Madianou & Miller, 2012). ...
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This paper critically examines how elderly people from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse(CALD) backgrounds in Victoria, Australia use visual-based platforms in navigating the lockdown in Melbourne, Australia. Based on conducting remote interviews among 15 participants in 2020, the findings show digital practices as integral to forge and maintain cultural identities and social connectedness. Using the mobilities perspective to interrogate digital behaviours, I coin the term ‘(im)mobile intimacy’ to articulate a sense of closeness enabled, felt and negotiated through modes of movements and stasis in and with online platforms. I contend that differential mediated mobilities and immobilities are informed by social, contextual, and technological factors, revealing the textures of affective and relational dimensions of enacting mobile intimacy. In sum, by locating both movements and stasis in digital environments, this paper sheds light on the (re)production of exclusion during the COVID-19 pandemic.
... As new digital technologies allowed intimacy to persist despite the distance through technologies of communication (Labor, 2021;Wilding, 2006), these opportunities have been a major factor in the decisions of people, specifically Filipinos, to work abroad (Madianou & Miller, 2013a). However, socioeconomic status still dictates access to and connectivity through digital technologies (Lim, 2016). Further, the asymmetry present in mobile intimacy is evident in how technological competency is necessary for individuals to navigate new media. ...
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Drawing from the assumptions on queer and mobile intimacy, emotion work, and care, this paper explores the role of mobile communication platform access and use among Filipino gay couples who have been physically separated because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The paper looks at in-depth narratives of 24 gay men whose romances have been transferred to and transformed by messaging apps due to the pandemic. The accounts of these gay couples represent the realities of cosmopolitan gay men in negotiating digital romantic presence as they manage connection despite the distance. Mobile technologies have deepened the synchronous and asynchronous rituals of maneuvering romance as couples manage imagined emphatic romances. The participants’ descriptions revealed queered technology-use in bridging and maintaining imagined intimacies while feeling trapped in the dependence on mediated means of enacting such intimacies.
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Technology domestication in old age may promote autonomy and support aging in place, but most previous research did not follow the process of domestication over time and in real life conditions. To gain deeper understanding of technology domestication in later life, we simultaneously explored uses, outcomes and constraints in real life conditions in a longitudinal study. Nineteen community-dwelling women aged 75–90 were provided with voice-controlled Intelligent Personal Assistants (Google Home) and their experiences with them were documented for three months via semi-structured interviews, observations, and weekly surveys. Analysis identified three different patterns of technology domestication: “Broad domestication” characterized by a high level of integration and ongoing experimentation, “focused domestication” in which the user mainly adopted one of the device’s functions, and “restrained domestication” wherein a short period of experimentation was followed by occasional use, if any. Demonstrating that the process of technology domestication is not homogeneous, the findings call for some theoretical updates and offer several practical implications.
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The onset of a global pandemic has put contemporary social life on a stand still. People’s movements have been constrained due to border closures, travel restrictions, and lockdowns. As a result, many people have increasingly relied on digital communication technologies to forge and maintain ties. Notably, navigating an indefinite period of physical separation through digital media use is a familiar scenario among migrants and their left-behind family members. Even before the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, they were already heavily relying on communication technologies to sustain long-distance relationships. The expansive literature on the intersections of migration and digital media shows how digital practices facilitate a sense of co-presence (Nedelcu & Wyss, 2016), intimacy (Parreñas, 2001), and even care provision beyond borders (Baldassar, Baldock, & Wilding, 2007). However, as several scholars suggest, transnational communication can also be undermined by asymmetrical social and technological forces (Cabalquinto, 2018; Lim, 2016; Parreñas, 2005). As such, digital technologies often function as a blessing and a burden in maintaining transnational ties (Horst, 2006). In this reflective piece, I highlight how a networked environment serves as a key site for the production of structural inequalities. I achieve this by reflecting on my own (im)mobile experiences as a migrant academic who enacts transnational care practices, which facilitates an interrogation of the concept of “telecocoon” through a transnational perspective.
Vietnamese Americans have a higher rate of cervical and colorectal cancer (CRC) compared to other ethnicities. Increasing CRC screening, Pap testing, and HPV vaccination is critical to preventing disproportionate cancer burden among Vietnamese families. To describe the successes and challenges of implementing a novel intergenerational family group chat intervention that encourages CRC screening, Pap testing, and HPV vaccination. Young adult Family Health Advocates (FHAs) were trained to facilitate online family group chat conversations to encourage cancer screenings. Ten families participated in a 4-week intervention. Data collection included screenshot data of family group chat conversations, family member surveys, and post-intervention FHA interviews. Intervention implementation successes included (a) cultural and language brokering, (b) active co-facilitation by family members to follow up on cancer screenings, (c) high levels of family group chat engagement, (d) high acceptability of intervention among families, and (e) accessibility of intervention curriculum. FHA challenges to implement the intervention included (a) sustaining cancer prevention conversations, (b) comfort with navigating family conversations around cancer screening, (c) relevance for all family members, and (d) missed opportunities for correcting misinformation. Researcher challenges included family recruitment and retention. The intervention made cancer-screening messages more accessible and was well accepted by Vietnamese families. Scaling up the intervention will require (a) training FHAs to monitor family conversations and build confidence in sharing medical accurate messages, (b) segmenting group chats by age and gender, and (c) employing multiple family engagement strategies.
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