Smartphone mothering and mediated family display: Transnational family practices in a polymedia environment among Indonesian mothers in Hong Kong

Barui K Waruwu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Steady demand for migrant domestic workers from developing countries continues to normalize an intriguing form of geographically dispersed families from which the mothers migrate and become the breadwinners. Despite the distance, migrant mothers remain committed to the preservation of intimacy by utilizing communication media to perform and “display” family practices. Using polymedia and displaying family as theoretical frameworks, this ethnographic study examines how smartphones shape family practices among migrant mothers. Through participant observation and in-depth interviews with 30 Indonesian mothers in Hong Kong, it illustrates how smartphones transform the configuration of mothering practices and power structures underpinning family interaction in the process of mediated family display. Smartphones, as polymedia, enable migrant mothers to assert authority over the display of maternal roles, relationships, and rituals, both materially and discursively. Given that their relationships are experienced almost exclusively via smartphone communication, directing the communication effectively means defining the shape and characteristics of the family. The findings problematize the depiction of migrant mothers as victims of communication technologies, highlighting their authorial privilege when displaying family. This article also presents a critical reflection on mediated family practices by illustrating cases of failed display.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-114
Number of pages18
JournalMobile Media and Communication
Volume10
Issue number1
Early online date9 Mar 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022

User-Defined Keywords

  • Displaying family
  • polymedia
  • smartphones
  • migrant mothers
  • Indonesian domestic helpers

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