The Modern World

National Geographic Magazine comes to our house monthly. I read it sometimes. Good thing, or I would have missed this:

The Maasai: changed, for better or worse, by cell phones

TIMOTHY BAIRD Geography researcher

The Maasai people of Kenya and Tanzania live a semi-nomadic, pastoral life, seeking out areas of fresh pasture and building en­closures to protect their livestock. For cultural anthropologists who wonder how off-the-grid people are being changed by a world of screens, Internet, and fast communication, the Maasai are an ideal test case.

Tim Baird is observing the transformation in progress. “Phones are a profound new tool for them,” says Baird, a Virginia Tech geog­raphy professor who has studied Maasai cell phone culture under a National Geographic grant. Instant connectivity where none ex­isted before has changed the type of people a Maasai person can reach, he says, and the type of information shared. That includes weather data for farmers, market prices for livestock, and—even though tradition some­times dictates arranged marriages between young girls and older men—ways for girls to flirt with boys their own age. After all, Baird notes, even some older-model mobile phones can access Facebook.

[Vol. 229, No. 3. March 2016]

I have to agree. These nomadic people have come a long way since Gary Larson published the following cartoon in 1981.



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