Mobile network society? Affordability and mobile phone usage in Grahamstown East

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


This article presents findings from research into the impact of affordability on cell phone usage in the impoverished community of Grahamstown East. The findings indicate that the usage of cell phones is significantly constrained by a lack of affordability, which calls into question whether this community is experiencing a shift from an earlier, industrial form of society, to what Castells et al. have called the 'mobile network society'. The research points to the fact that the positive benefits of cell phones, identified by Castells et al., cannot be realised in a circumstance where cell phone usage is survivalist in nature, and in fact cell phones are highly extractive in this resource-poor context, diverting income away from more productive uses. The research is used to raise a series of questions about the explanatory power of technology-led accounts of social transformation for an impoverished community such as that of Grahamstown East, and whether it is appropriate for theorists to base their accounts of social change largely on middle-class experiences with cell phone usage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-52
Number of pages18
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Manuel Castells
  • cellphones
  • development
  • mobile phones
  • network society

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication


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