One week, two projects

This has been a memorable and exciting week for me as a researcher. Within the span of a few days, two of my recent projects have shed “draft” status and entered the public space.

Earlier this week, my colleagues at Caribou Digital launched a report (pdf), prepared with the support of The MasterCard Foundation, entitled Digital Lives in Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda. The report draws on interview and focus group data from young people in all three countries, suggesting new ways to understand peoples’ ICT use holistically, across multiple devices for multiple purposes. We combined this field data with interviews with dozens of leading researchers and practitioners in the ICT4D space to create a document that re-engages with long-standing issues of inclusion and participation in a more global information society.

And yesterday, there were confirmed sightings in the retail wild of my book, After Access: Inclusion, Development, and a More Mobile Internet. This book is the culmination of a much longer process, having been proposed in 2013, written in 2014, and revised in 2015. I’m thrilled that it is finally published, and am so grateful to the whole team at the MIT Press, and to many early readers and reviewers at Microsoft Research, Caribou Digital, and in my broader scholarly community for their support and advice. Starting with an extended exploration of the definition(s) of ‘mobile’, I consider both the positive and negative implications of shift to a more mobile internet for ICT4D research and practice, and for those same dynamics of inclusion and participation in the information society I mentioned in the paragraph above.

Thus, while the two projects are distinct, there are synergies. Indeed, the Digital Lives report provided a welcome opportunity to expand on some of the ideas I explored in After Access — particularly the usefulness of “digital repertoires” as a lens, as opposed to focusing on one device or one technology at a time. In addition, the Digital Lives report offers some discussions of Internet Access Modalities, that are in some ways extensions of the thinking I was doing in After Access about how increasingly heterogeneous kinds of internet access approaches come with increasingly heterogeneous affordances and constraints, and thus encourage different kinds of internet experiences.

I view this post — and this week — as an important step in a rolling start to some more conversations about both projects, as opposed to an element of an integrated launch with coordinated fanfare. Over the next few weeks, I will summarize some of the major themes in the book and in the report in posts or press articles. I am also looking forward to giving some talks about the works in the New Year, once folks get back from their holiday breaks.

In the meantime, feel free to weigh in on the themes in the book on the forums page, or on the book page on Facebook. Thanks for taking a look!