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Re-Assembling Ghana: Diaspora and Innovation in the African Mediascape

  • Author(s): Royston, Reginold Alexander
  • Advisor(s): Laguerre, Michel S.
  • Burrell, Jenna
  • et al.
Abstract

The notion of the "network society" has been used to describe world relations since the wide adoption of mobile phones and the Internet at the start of the 21st century. Against this narrative of a seamless global, and democratizing information system, I argue that tech users operating from the Global South interact with information technology via asymmetrical positions of connection, participation and production. For nations such as Ghana (West Africa), whose engagement with the West includes historic and contemporary waves of diaspora, the opportunities and failures of new networking technologies remain poignant. In this dissertation, I document the cyberculture practices of Ghana's "digital diaspora" and homeland "activist developers" who are overcoming this network divide through the use of "tactical" new media. In this work, I emphasize the importance of innovation (novel techniques and practices) over technology (construed narrowly as objects and scientific processes) for the social science of technology. Using ethnographic methods and interviews, I interacted with lay and professional innovators in physical locations (San Francisco, Chicago, Amsterdam, and Accra and Kumasi in Ghana) and via online media (Twitter, message boards, blogs, mobile devices and apps). These digital practices of the translocal resist the enduring notions of Africa as a place devoid of technological innovation, and thus outside of modernity. The documented practices of bricolage, local adoption and relativist invention all re-assemble the social imaginary of Ghana for the contemporary era, and reflect a politics of agency and representation within a growing African mediascape.

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