Andrew Carlson is a PhD candidate in the School of Media Arts and Studies at Ohio University. His research interests include the role of sport and media in promoting positive social change, individuals’ experiences with mobile communications, communication for social change, and health communication. He has worked and engaged in research in a number of locations including Tanzania, South Africa, Liberia, Ghana, Timor-Leste, and the United States. He received Fulbright funding in 2005 for research in Durban, South Africa. His latest research concerns the experiences of micro-scale entrepreneurs in Soweto and mobile communications as they prepare for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
The use of communications technology among commercial sex workers in Johannesburg: Influences of the FIFA World Cup
With the start of the 2010 FIFA World Cup approximately six months away, policy makers, public health experts, and sex workers themselves have noted that decriminalization of commercial sex work prior to the event is unlikely. As the World Cup approaches and the prospects for decriminalization fade, effective communication strategies among commercial sex workers will become increasingly important, as they attempt to avoid interaction with law enforcement and capitalize on the economic opportunities presented by the influx of soccer fans. This paper presents the results of a qualitative research project conducted in July and August of 2009, in and around Soweto, South Africa. As part of a larger research project which included observation and interviews with 53 formal and informal entrepreneurs, this paper focuses on the experiences of seven commercial sex workers, four female and three male, with the use of communications technology as they consider the arrival of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Using a theoretical framework suggested by informal economy studies, economic sociology, and a postcolonial approach to diffusion of innovations research, the study utilized in-depth interviews and collection of secondary documents to draw conclusions about the connections micro-scale entrepreneurs, including commercial sex workers, possess and consider when making economic and social decisions. These connections, or networks, are strengthened or weakened by an individual’s ability to access and exploit communications technology. The paper reports on how participants’ experiences with communications technology such as cell phones and the Internet create and/or influence the communication strategies they use to recruit new clients and network with other sex workers for protection and information.