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Invisible Users

Youth in the Internet Cafés of Urban Ghana

Jenna Burrell

Publication Year: 2012

An account of how young people in Ghana’s capital city adopt and adapt digital technology in the margins of the global economy.

Published by: The MIT Press

Series: Acting with Technology

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

For an ethnographer, there are several forms of isolation to contend with in the process of producing a book such as this one. The immersion of fieldwork, though it involves a great deal of social interaction, is at the same time an experience of leaving the comforts of home and of a cultural world ...

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-28

Newlyweds Joyce, a twenty-four-year-old Ghanaian woman, and George, a fifty-one-year-old Canadian man, sat across from me at a pizza restaurant in mid-November 2004. From balcony seats, lit dimly by strings of Christmas lights, we relaxed into the interminable wait for our soggy pizzas. ...

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2. Youth and the Indeterminate Space of the Internet Café

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pp. 29-54

This ethnography begins in earnest in this chapter with an introduction to the people and places that comprise the field. A small number of Internet cafés served as the starting point for my observations but this quickly expanded into various other sites and the broader urban environment the cafés were situated within. ...

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3. Ghanaians Online and the Innovation of 419 Scams

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pp. 55-80

This chapter travels into online virtual spaces to consider digitally mediated encounters between Ghanaian youth and the foreigners they met there. The practice of collecting and cultivating foreign contacts (in Yahoo! chat rooms, on dating sites, and elsewhere) was the most common and characteristic use of the Internet in Accra’s Internet cafés.1 ...

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4. Rumor and the Morality of the Internet

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pp. 81-104

To arrive at a coherent reading of a new technological form, users may draw from different kinds of scripts. As scholars have argued, advertising—well-recognized as a kind of script—intentionally plays into this process by depicting new technologies in a way that is meant to shift public understanding ...

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5. Practical Metaphysics and the Efficacy of the Internet

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pp. 105-132

Religious practice and belief were a frequent point of reference for Ghanaian Internet users when they spoke about their social relationships, aspirations, and their use of technologies including the Internet. The way they talked about this belief was marked by a sense of the presence of spiritual forces (good and evil) ...

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6. Linking the Internet to Development at a World Summit

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pp. 133-158

In recent years, the international aid sector has seized on digital and network technologies reframing them as tools of contemporary development practice. This chapter makes a brief diversion from the main thread of this book to consider this process. In an effort to ground such consideration ethnographically, ...

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7. The Import of Secondhand Computers and the Dilemma of Electronic Waste

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pp. 159-182

After the World Summit on the Information Society concluded in 2005, the attention of the national government and the business community in Ghana turned to a number of relevant concerns: the overtaxed electricity infrastructure, the influx of computers and other electronics as a burden on waste-handling systems, ...

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8. Becoming Visible

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pp. 183-200

Ghana, a small country on the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa, is the size of the US state of Oregon. Its entire population is only double that of New York City. Yet what is unfolding there, I argue, matters to the future of the Internet. By exploring the social world of youth who inhabit Accra’s Internet cafés, ...


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pp. 201-212


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pp. 213-230


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pp. 231-236

E-ISBN-13: 9780262301459
Print-ISBN-13: 9780262017367

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Acting with Technology