Domestication of the Mobile Phone Amongst Kantamanto Used-Clothes Traders in Accra

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University of Ghana


The mobile phone technology only recently gained its ubiquitous status and rapidity in design and features. The African context is no exception to this, as a result, it is only in the last decade that people have had the opportunity to own and discard various mobile phone handsets. Most studies have not considered the social dimension of the "journey" of owning and discarding the mobile phone handset. Consequently, the study explored the entire process involved in the traders accessing and making the mobile phone an extension of themselves from the point of owning the technology to the point of deciding to dispose of it. The process was explored using both the innovators and domestication process frameworks at five different, but interwoven levels, including, uptake, appropriation, objectification, incorporation and conversion. The sequential-mixed-method (qualitative-before-quantitative) with a sample of 431 used-clothes traders was employed. The respondents were selected using the purposive, snowball and cluster sampling methods from the Kantamanto market in Accra. After obtaining data using the in-depth interview and observational approaches from 11 traders, face-to-face interviews were conducted using the survey approach for 420 respondents with 86% response rate (363). Relying on the innovators and domestication process frameworks to explore this process, the findings of the study revealed that the uptake of the mobile phone is fuelled by two broad factors: the mandatory factors and the design based factors. While the mandatory factors are the domain of women; older users and those with low education; men, younger users and those with high education dominate the design factors. This showed that innovators are not always the ones who have used the mobile phone the longest. Men and young users, who are often driven to own, use and change mobile phone handsets more by their preference for improved features than the mere replacement of a broken handset, often dominate the innovators. Additionally, the call feature of the mobile phone is now a taken for granted basis for owning a handset amongst the traders. The study further revealed that the appropriation of the mobile phone handset is fueled by self-purchase for males and older owners, and gift for females and younger owners. Additionally, males within the traders‘ family circle and mobile phone repairers located at the market also significantly influence the traders in their mobile phone decisions. Conspicuously missing from this were advertisers and marketers. The study further revealed that objectification means more than just the physical display of the handset to score social status points, it also includes display of specific usage such as display of ringtones, social media uses and fashion. Objectification is interwoven with the earlier stages of the domestication process. Incorporation showed that three major routines of the traders drive their usage patterns and the continual usage of a handset, these include business, family responsibilities and entertainment routines. However, business usage was the most dominant pattern across all socio-demographic characteristics with no significant difference. Features and functions of the mobile phone that do not find a place in the traders‘ routines are abandoned. The incorporation stage is interwoven with the earlier stages of the domestication process. The final stage is the conversion stage; the study established that three key variables mediate the traders‘ attachment to their handset as expressed by themselves and seen by members of their social group. These are the age of the handset owner, the influence of others in managing the handset and finally the control the trader has over the mobile phone operation. The domestication process is not a linear process, but the stages overlap cyclically. Finally, the study showed that depending on a trader‘s age, gender and educational level, the traders take different paths in domesticating the mobile phone either as a gadget or as a communication device, even though they all belong to the same trading context.


Thesis (PhD)- University of Ghana, 2014


Mobile Phone, Used Clothes, Traders, Technology, Ghana