The setting could be a hole-in-the-wall that serves as a shop in a narrow alley in Guangzhou, a cart on a dusty street on the outskirts of Accra, a bustling marketplace in Mexico City, or a tiny storefront near downtown Los Angeles’ garment district. At such locales, men and women hawk an array of mobile phone cards and accessories as well as various types of handsets, including some that flash with disco lights to signal an incoming call or that bear a “Mi-Obama” label with the slogan “Yes We Can.” Workers fix broken phones, construct bastardized phones out of mismatched parts, and sell phones that have been brought to the premises through both legitimate and questionable means. The clientele of such establishments also engage in their own bricolage: sharing mobile phones, changing out SIM cards, “beeping,” reconfiguring the handset, and engaging in other creative uses not necessarily conceived of by designers. Though separated by language, culture, and geography, what all of these individuals share is that they have begun to form a chain of grassroots mobile innovation. Although such alternative handsets and practices are primarily located in the Global South, they can also be found in low-income, largely immigrant communities in cities in the developed world.
International Encyclopedia of Media Studies, Vol. Iv: Media Studies Futures, 2013, p. 241-265