Book Review for ‘Invisible Users’ at LA Review of Books

The first review of my new book, by Kevin Donovan who says several very insightful things that I’m pleased to think my book in some way inspired, such as:

“This dominant reductionist approach defines certain values, practices and technologies as “the Internet”, and ignores many others, especially the concrete ways in which it is experienced everyday, such as by the youth in Ghana’s internet cafes. Of course, shorthand is useful, and endless precision is both tedious and implausible. But perhaps to really understand “the Internet” we need to forget it as a unified “it” altogether, something that exists within a context and can be used for good or bad. This instrumentalist conception too often prompts the wrong questions and obfuscates differences and changes. Indeed, the important and interesting questions related to “the Internet” are almost invariably the ones where it isn’t a unified whole, but rather messy and fractured, in ongoing relationship with people.”

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Column #1 for Global Policy

Is the Digital Divide a defunct framework? My first column for Global Policy, a web-based journal run from my alma mater, The London School of Economics.

One related item, on “exclusionary online subcultures” see this blog post where a Ugandan journalist who criticizes Google’s chrome browser and supports IE is ridiculed and dismissed by reddit commenters. An example of insularity and ethnocentrism in online communities.

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Mapping the Flow of Secondhand Computers to Ghana

As posted over at Ethnography Matters:

Sourcemap is a project based out of the MIT Media Lab for documenting and publicizing the global supply chains of manufactured goods. With a slight bit of repurposing, I found it to be a potentially useful presentation tool for multi-sited ethnographies in the mode of “following the object.” Case in point, my source map of the distribution of secondhand computers arriving from the US and Europe to Ghana. This source map doesn’t just document their arrival into Ghana, but also the path they take in country from the port, to the shops where they are sold, the Internet cafes where they are used, and eventually to the scrap metal yards where valuable metals are extracted, and the waste dump where what is left is deposited. Source map allows you to attach text and photos (from Flickr) to points on the map and to the links between. As a presentation tool for multi-sited ethnographies this helps to break away from the linearity of prose, linking images and descriptions and giving a stronger spatial sense of phenomena that is so geographically vast in scope that it is otherwise hard to get a good grasp of its coherence and continuity.

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Talking Anthropology podcast

Would you like to hear a conversational interview about my new book? I had a nice chat with Thomas Lohninger of the Talking Anthropology podcast. You can listen to it here.

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New Article in First Monday this month (June 2012)

My latest article “Technology Hype vs. Enduring Uses: A longitudinal study of Internet use among early adopters in an African city” is out this month in the wonderful open access journal First Monday.

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Book Talk

Launching my book Invisible Users: Youth in the Internet Cafes of Urban Ghana on Wednesday (5/2) 4pm, in South Hall room 210. I’ll be speaking about the book which will be available for purchase. Reception afterwards. Hope to see you there!

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What’s New about New Materialisms?

Excited to be presenting at this upcoming 2-day conference at Berkeley May 4th-5th. Will be speaking about the the Materiality of Rumors a favorite topic of mine. I wrote a chapter for an edited book on it that will be coming out sometime in 2012.

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I’m on Twitter These Days

I’m @jennaburrell – go there for 160 character chunks of thought, a mixture of (West) African culture(s), reflections on sociological topics, and technology news.

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EthnoZine January Edition

I produced this months EthnoZine for our Ethnography Matters group blog. It covers a satisfyingly eclectic range of topics including: the ethnography of robots, some thoughts on whether corporate ethnography sucks, and ideas about how to get a grasp on the complex environment of a city when doing urban ethnography. You can sign up here.

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The Materiality of Rumor

The edited book (Editors: Paul Leonardi, Bonnie Nardi, Jannis Kallinikos) isn’t coming out until 2013, but a draft version of my chapter on the materiality of rumor is available now. Exploring the concept of relational materiality through an inversion of the typical material ordering, this chapter looks at the “material aspects” and the “material effects” of a particular rumor about an impending earthquake in Ghana that mysteriously emerged and spread in early 2010, shortly after Haiti’s devastating earthquake.

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