Lately:

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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Group Blogging: Ethnography Matters

I’ve been working on launching a group blog with a couple of alumnae (Heather Ford, Rachelle Annechino) from our Masters program and Tricia Wang a PhD student in Sociology at UCSD. The blog is called “Ethnography Matters.” A news item describing the project is available here.

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Talking about Secondhand Computers and E-Waste in Ghana

Friday (9/16) ICTD seminar meets in room 205 South Hall at noon.  I’ll be talking about some recent research on the secondhand computer business in Accra, Ghana which is critical in affordably equipping the city’s Internet cafes.

Secondhand computers being sold in a shop in Accra, Ghana. Property tags left on the machines reveal their source: the New York Public Library.

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