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Abstract Many analyses of the uses of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) focus on factors such as gender, class and communication infrastructures in explaining how and whether people communicate across distance. In this article, I argue that such analyses fail to capture the full complexity of ICT use. I use the results of a large qualitative study of transnational families, conducted in Australia, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Iran, Singapore and New Zealand, to examine how and whether kin maintain contact across time and space. The research demonstrates that ICTs are more available for some people than for others. However, also and possibly more important in the decisions people make about using particular communication technologies are the social and cultural contexts of family life, which render some ICTs more desirable than others at specific points in time. Acknowledging this provides an important corrective to economic analyses of transnationalism, and contributes to theorizing and documenting the role of ICTs in the maintenance of transnational social networks.