In this fascinating ethnography of life in internet cafes in Ghana, Jenna Burrell shows how a blend of scammers, religion, and a grey market produce a new form of digital marginality. Exploring the 'material turn' in science and technology studies, this book makes an important contribution to media studies, development studies, and anthropology.
, Professor of Science and Technology Studies, Cornell University)
Jenna Burrell offers a vivid and detailed portrait of a corner of the internet few of us consider closely -- the hundreds of millions of internet users in the developing world who share the online spaces we inhabit. Burrell's in-depth examination of internet culture in Ghana shatters stereotypes with nuance, encouraging us to think through complex issues like advance fee fraud, computer recycling and cross-cultural encounter from the perspective of ordinary, middle-class Africans approaching the internet with fears and hopes both similar and different to the ones we hold.
, Director, Center for Civic Media at MIT)
Too often, scholars and practitioners of information technology have used Africa as a foil for modernity and development without ever bothering to see what is happening there. This book is an extraordinary corrective. Rich with stories of Ghanaian life from the Internet Café to the Pentecostal church to the UN World Summit on Information Society, it uses this material to reformulate ideas of agency, materiality, orality and marginality. Invisible Users is a work on the global spread of information technology unlike any other, and a model for any to come.
(Christopher M. Kelty
, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Information Studies, UCLA)
In this well-written and compelling book, Burrell deftly supports her conviction that future scholarship must recognize the inconsistencies inherent in the digital experiences of those who live in the margins of our global society.
This book is a fine, Africa-based contribution to theory in technology studies as well as an empirical achievement that should be of strong interest to the cultural studies community in general. Those of us who work on Africa, youth, new communications technology, or Ghana will be far from its only readers.
(Jo Ellen Fair African Studies Review
About the Author
Jenna Burrell is Associate Professor in the School of Information at the University of California, Berkeley.