The Use of Private Mobile Phones at War: Accounts From the Donbas Conflict

Irina Shklovski, Volker Wulf

Research output: Conference Article in Proceeding or Book/Report chapterArticle in proceedingsResearchpeer-review


Studying technology use in unstable and life-threatening conditions can help highlight assumptions of use built into technologies and foreground contradictions in the design of devices and services. This paper provides an account of how soldiers, volunteers, and civilians use mobile technologies in wartime, reporting on fieldwork conducted in Western Russia and Eastern Ukraine with people close to or participating directly in the armed conflict in the Donbas region. We document how private mobile phones and computers became a crucial but ambiguous infrastructure despite their lack of durability in extreme conditions of a military conflict, and their government and military surveillance potential. Our participants rely on a combination of myths and significant technical knowledge to negotiate the possibilities mobile technologies offer and the life-threatening reality of enemy surveillance they engender. We consider the problems of always-on, always-connected devices under conditions of war and surveillance and our responsibilities as HCI practitioners in the design of social technologies.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 2018 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
Publication date2018
Article numberPaper No. 386
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-4503-5620-6
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • political conflict
  • war
  • mobile technologies
  • cscw
  • ukraine


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