Mobile Phones in Migrant Contexts: Commercial Discourses and Migrants' Appropriations of ICT in Spain

Cecilia Gordano


As part of the digital technological environment in which contemporary migrations occur, mobile phones constitute a paramount resource for maintaining bonds with geographically scattered family members, as well as for building networks in the original, destination and in-between spaces of migrants’ trajectories. In this context, enterprises have quickly identified a business opportunity in migrants’ cross-border belongings, adapting their business models to transnational family communication (TFC) needs. Focused on Spain, this paper proposes a qualitative approach to migrants' use of mobile phones from a double perspective: Ecuadorian and Moroccan users' accounts, and those of telecom providers’ marketing spokespersons. Preliminary results suggest that spokespersons acknowledge migrants' needs to communicate both abroad and within Spain, although advertising stresses only mobile phone use for TFC. In turn, migrants interviewed face emotional and socio-economic factors that condition their communicative practices in accordance with different intersectional variables, leading them to build complex strategies for the appropriation of mobile phones and other ICT, such as owning multiple SIM cards and visiting cybercafés. This paper argues for a deeper understanding of TFC by partially bringing to the fore the inherent tensions between the discourses of telecom suppliers and the resourceful ICT practices of low-income migrant users.


mobile phones, appropriation, transnational families, commercial discourses, Spain

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