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A Village in my Hand

Since its arrival, the cell phone has been transforming culture and the ways in which we live, exist and interact with life. With minimal access to telecommunications, since 2006 it has become ubiquitous in Samoa. Using observation and semi-structured interviews based within two villages in rural Samoa, this thesis has explored the influence of the cell phone upon Samoan daily lives. It investigates how it came to be in Samoa, what perceptions surround the cell phone and how it is seen to have contributed and influenced daily activities, culture and customs of villagers. Similar to research and literature into mobile telephony on other cultures, affordances provided through the cell phone such as micro coordination and increased connectedness are also being experienced in Samoa, reducing time and space and facilitating activities that required a fair amount of coordination into activities of micro-coordination, also creating greater access to economic opportunities, such as work and the possibility of entrepreneurship. Nonetheless it appears influences such as locality and social status seem to affect the degree of use for Samoans. The ability to have greater privacy provided by the cell phone in combination with being able to be perpetually in contact with others across time and space predominantly through communicative methods like SMS or texting seem to be challenging traditional expectations surrounding authority especially around familial relationships. What looks to be the difference between similar experiences in other cultures is the speed to which this technological affordance has been integrated within rural Samoa which had no previous telecommunication availability prior to 2006. This combined with the absolute social and customary expectations placed on the values of obedience, respect, love, selfless service and Christianity appears to be accentuating the ‘loss of parental control’. Traditional customs such as gift giving have been adapted by the service provider and transferred into the use and practice surrounding the cell phone into daily activity and use by Samoans resulting predominately in the transference of money but does also include the gifting of cell phones. Crossing multiple disciplines this thesis explores a number of topics surrounding the cell phone and highlights the need for further research establishing a primary base from which to build upon.
Type of thesis
Russell, P. J. (2013). A Village in my Hand (Thesis, Master of Arts (MA)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/7579
University of Waikato
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