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Molly Steenson, Shared and Sometimes Stealthy: Urban India’s Mobile Phone

Thursday, October 9, 2008
12:30 pm


Sherrerd Hall, 3rd floor open space
Princeton, NJ 08544 United States + Google Map

Food and discussion begins at 12:30 pm. Everyone invited.

The mobile phone is usually considered a personal and private device, one that belongs to and is used by an individual. But the reality in urban India is quite different. Instead, people share mobile phones in rich ways and in different contexts, regardless of class level. A variety of social and spatial considerations shape mobile phone sharing. In an ethnographic study conducted at Microsoft Research India, we found layers of mobile phone sharing in four different contexts, from the domestic, to the out-and-about in the city, to the marketplace, and within a rural village to urban ecology. Each urban, spatial situation offered surprising insights into how people shared their devices.


Molly Wright Steenson is a second-year PhD student in Princeton’s School of Architecture. She researches the intersection of technology and architecture. She began working with the web in 1994 with such companies as Netscape, Reuters, Scient, and Razorfish. As a researcher, she has worked with Microsoft Research India and ReD Associates in Denmark, examining at the impact of technology on social relationships in cities. In addition, Molly was Associate Professor of Connected Communities at the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea in Italy (a master’s program now merged with Milan’s Domus Academy). She blogs at Active Social Plastic (