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The domestication of the mobile phone: oral society and new ICT in Burkina Faso

  • Hans Peter Hahn (a1) and Ludovic Kibora (a2)

This article addresses the topic of the recent boom in mobile phones in Burkina Faso. Mobile phones are placed in the theoretical framework of domestication and, more particularly, of cultural appropriation. They are therefore regarded not only as devices to communicate, but also as material objects which cause economic problems and may affect social relations through the uneven disposition over such objects. As in many other African countries, the growth of mobile phone usage in Burkina Faso is higher than in Western countries, reflecting the particular appreciation of these devices. This development contrasts sharply with the difficult economic situation of many of the users. This context may explain some particular patterns of usage, and is discussed against the background of the communication principles ruling in societies still adequately described as ‘oral societies’. Domestication leads to a partial usage of the devices' technical possibilities. Nevertheless, it transforms mobile phones into socially meaningful means of communication.

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