The Importance of Secondhand Computers and the Dilemma of Electronic Waste

Media coverage of e-waste seems to be resurging with a recent photo spread (rehashing what all the other media outlets did 4 years ago) in Wired Magazine Online.

For the record, here is my research on what’s been happening in Ghana, specifically in the area known as Agbogbloshie which is a scrap metal recycling area. This is based on 7 weeks of fieldwork back in 2010 including visits to the port at Tema, at the Customs, Excise and Preventative Service of the Government of Ghana, at shops that refurbish and sell computers, at streetside collection points, and at scrap metal collection sites including Agbogbloshie and another one on the outskirts of Accra.

Citation: Chapter 7. in Burrell, Jenna (2012) Invisible Users: Youth in the Internet Cafes of Urban Ghana. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

UPDATE (1/13/16):
Highlighting QAMP the makerspace in Agbogbloshie led by DK Osseo-Asare – The burning truth behind an e-waste dump in Africa: ending the toxic smoke rising from an iconic dump in Ghana will take more than curbing Wastern waste (Smithsonian magazine)

UPDATE (10/12/15):
Great short video on the recyclers, refurbishers, and makers of Ghana’s Agbogbloshie scrap metal yard:

UPDATE (7/27/15):
More accurate coverage of the e-waste issue is out there (but you won’t find in the NY Times, the Guardian or other outlets who seem to have bought into an extremely skewed, Eurocentric narrative), please read:

E-waste Republic (Aljazeera) – by Jacopo Ottaviani

An Infamous E-waste Slum Needed Us. It Got Razed Instead. – by Kyle Wiens

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

CRS ICT4D conference

Just back from the ICT4D conference hosted by Catholic Relief Services. This conference is aimed at practitioners although there was a decent showing from academics. I presented on work from our NSF grant.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

ICTD 2015 Singapore May 15-19th

Fulfilling the last of my duties as ICTD program committee co-chair this week. Pleased to present 22 amazing papers. See you in Singapore!

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

On the Importance and Implications of Studying Tech Non-Use

A new co-authored piece (led by Eric Baumer) just published in ACM Interactions following from our CHI 2014 workshop.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Upcoming Talks – Fall 2014

23 Oct 14 – CSTMS Colloquium – “On the Importance of Price Information to Fishers and to Economists

November 4 – Center for Work, Technology & Organization, Stanford University

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Upcoming Talks – Spring 2014

April 9th – Santa Clara University, Management Department Seminar Series.

April 28th & 29th – “The Materiality of Rumors,” University of Toronto, Culture and Technology Lecture Series.

May 22nd – UCLA, Information Studies Colloquium Series.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Revisiting the Fishers of Kerala, India at ICTD 2013 in Cape Town

A paper titled ‘Revisiting the Fishers of Kerala, India’ co-authored by Janaki Srinivasan and myself was accepted at the upcoming ICTD 2013 conference in Cape Town, South Africa.  This paper reported on our ethnographic case study of mobile phone use in the Keralan fishing industry. Interviews and observations were carried out by Janaki in beach landing sites and markets in both north and south Kerala.

The paper is intentionally written to be in dialogue with Economist Robert Jensen’s canonical paper which is widely known in the ICTD field titled “The Digital Provide: Information (Technology), Market Performance, and Welfare in the South Indian Fisheries Sector.” In particular we explored the political economic context of the fishing industry, credit and investment practices in the industry, the possibilities of generalizing from Jensen’s study, and the broader range of mobile phone uses (beyond checking market prices) by those in the fish supply chain.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Podcast from the SfAA

I’m participating in a book project lead by Roger Sanjek, a sequel to his original edited book, “Fieldnotes: The Making of Anthropology.” The forthcoming book on “eFieldnotes” will consider the alteration to fieldwork practices following from the use of various digital technologies by ethnographers.  A small number of contributors to the volume had the chance to meet and present papers at the Society for Applied Anthropology conference in Denver, CO on March 23rd.

Our panel was selected to be podcast.  The podcast audio is available here.

My contribution to the book will be titled, “Through a Screen, Darkly: On Remote, Collaborative Fieldwork in the Digital Age.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Coverage in the Guardian

My book was cited in this piece in the Guardian by John Naughton: Online, some are more equal than others: much is made of the Internet being a level playing field…tell that to the kids in Ghana.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Upcoming Public Talks – Spring 2013

Boston University, Visible + Invisible Users: Internet, Social Media, and Youth in Global Perspective. Monday, February 11, 2013. Time: 2 – 5:30 PM, Location: College of Communication, 640 Commonwealth Ave, Room 209.

Harvard University, Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Luncheon Series (RSVP required). February 12th. 12:30pm. 23 Everett St, 2nd Floor – this talk was recorded, view it here or read Ethan Zuckerman’s recap.

Stanford University, Africa Table. February 20. 12:00pm. Encina Hall West, Room 202.

Pitzer College, Munroe Center for Social Inquiry. Series on Examining THE CITY: Issues of Sustainability, Social Stratification, Democratic Public Spheres, Privatization, Cosmopolitanism and the Arts. February 26th. 4:15 pm, George C.S. Benson Auditorium

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off