Gender, Mobile, and Mobile Internet| Maintenance Affordances, Capabilities and Structural Inequalities: Mobile Phone Use By Low-Income Women

Becky Faith


This article shows the impact of “maintenance affordances” on women’s capabilities to use mobile phones to lead lives they value. Analysis of data from a qualitative study of mobile phone use by 30 young low-income women—including 15 who had no access to the Internet other than through their mobile phones—shows how maintaining mobile phones through charge, credit, and repair is a significant burden. These challenges were inextricably bound up with structural inequality experienced by respondents such as poor employment conditions and unaffordable housing. This study therefore proposes a new theoretical framework combining affordances and the capability approach, in which the maintenance affordances of a technology are seen to impact directly on individuals’ capability to use this resource to lead lives they value.


mobile phone, smartphone, mobile-only Internet, gender, maintenance, battery

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