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Society and the Internet: How Networks of Information and Communication are Changing Our Lives (second edition) now out!

I’m thrilled to announce that the second edition of Society and the Internet is now out!!

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The book has been fully updated since the first edition and contains new chapters on topics such as fake news, memes, digital health, and the platform economy. The volume contains 24 chapters from authors who speak from a diverse range of disciplinary perspectives: from sociology, geography, economics, and political science to law, computer science, and network science.

Society and the Internet aims to give readers a broad overview of existing scholarship in key areas (e.g. memes, fake news) whilst grounding those topics in primary and unique contributions from each author. Following a foreword by Manual Castells, we introduce some of the key issues in Internet Studies. The chapters are then organised into five focused sections: The Internet in Everyday Life; Digital Rights and Human Rights; Networked Ideas, Politics, and Governance; Networked Businesses, Industries, and Economics; and Technological and Regulatory Histories and Futures.

It was a pleasure getting to work with so many talented scholars, and with my wonderful co-editor and collaborator Bill Dutton. I hope you all enjoy the collection.

Society and the Internet. Table of Contents

Foreword, Manuel Castells

Introduction, William H. Dutton and Mark Graham

Part I: The Internet and Everyday Life

1: The Internet in Daily Life: The Turn to Networked Individualism, Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman

2: Internet Memes and the Twofold Articulation of Values, Limor Shifman

3: Internet Geographies: Data Shadows and Digital Divisions of Labor, Mark Graham, Sanna Ojanperä, and Martin Dittus

4: Internet Cultures and Digital Inequalities, Bianca C. Reisdorf, Grant Blank, and William H. Dutton

5: Older Adults on Digital Media in a Networked Society: Enhancing and Updating Social Connections, Anabel Quan-Haase, Renwen Zhang, Barry Wellman, and Hua Wang

6: Internet Skills and Why They Matter, Eszter Hargittai and Marina Micheli

Part II: Digital Rights, Human Rights

7: Gender and Race in the Gaming World, Lisa Nakamura

8: Data Protection in the Clouds, Christopher Millard

9: Building the Cybersecurity Capacity of Nations, Sadie Creese, Ruth Shillair, Maria Bada, and William H. Dutton

10: Big Data: Marx, Hayek, and Weber in a Data-Driven World, Ralph Schroeder

Part III: Networked Ideas, Politics, and Governance

11: Political Turbulence: How Social Media Shapes Collective Action, Helen Margetts, Scott Hale, and Peter John

12: Social Media and Democracy in Crisis, Philip N. Howard and Samantha Bradshaw

13: The Internet and Access to Information About Politics: Searching Through Filter Bubbles, Echo Chambers, and Disinformation, William H. Dutton, Bianca C. Reisdorf, Grant Blank, Elizabeth Dubois, and Laleah Fernandez

14: Digital News and the Consumption of Political Information, Silvia Majó-Vázquez and Sandra González-Bailón

Part IV: Networked Businesses, Industries, and Economics

15: The Internet at the Global Economic Margins, Mark Graham

16: The Political Economy of Digital Health, Gina Neff

17: The Platformization of Society and its Discontents, Antonio A. Casilli and Julian Posada

18: Scarcity of Attention for a Medium of Abundance: An Economic Perspective, Greg Taylor

19: Incentives to Share in the Digital Economy, Matthew David

Part V: Technological and Regulatory Histories and Futures

20: Three Phases in the Development of China's Network Society, Jack Linchuan Qiu

21: The Politics of Children's Internet Use, Victoria Nash

22: Looking Ahead at Internet Video and its Societal Impacts, Eli Noam

23: The Social Media Challenge to Internet Governance, Laura DeNardis

24: The Unfinished Work of the Internet, David Bray and Vinton Cerf

Open access: Contradictory Connectivity: Spatial Imaginaries and Technomediated Positionalities in Kenya's Outsourcing Sector

One of my papers is newly open access. The paper takes a case study of changing connectivity in East Africa, and by probing the spatial imaginaries of economic actors in the region, is able to ask questions about what digital connectivity actually is, means, and does.

Graham, M. 2015. Contradictory Connectivity: Spatial Imaginaries and Techno-Mediated Positionalities in Kenya's Outsourcing Sector. Environment and Planning A 47 867-883

Abstract:

East Africa has traditionally been characterized by stark barriers to nonproximate communication and flows of information. It was the world's last major region without fibre-optic broadband Internet access, and until the summer of 2009 had been forced to rely on slow and costly satellite connectivity. This all changed when the first of four fibre-optic cables was connected in Kenya: bringing with it the promise of fast and affordable Internet access for the masses, and the ability of the country to move towards a knowledge-based economy. Within the context of this moment of change, this paper explores the ways that managers of outsourcing firms envisage ‘connectivity.’ Over the course of forty-one interviews, contradictory spatial imaginaries were discovered. When describing their perceptions of the country's new technomediated positionalities, many interviewees repeated visions that allowed geographic frictions to evaporate. But when managers were asked about their actual mediated positionalities, they presented a very different world: one of barriers, frictions, and the very real role that distance continues to play in the world's economic peripheries. The goal of this paper is to interrogate why we see such stark disconnects between perceptions and practices of connectivity. The contradictions could be seen as an exposition of a scalar schism between internationally operating regimes of truth (ie, powerful discourses that have their origin nonlocally) and local experiences and practices in Kenya. Alternatively, we can think about the contradictory accounts of connectivity as emergent from strategic spatial essentialisms that are practised to achieve particular goals. By focusing on the contradictions embedded into the ways in which people speak about connectivity in the Kenyan outsourcing sector, we can learn much about how arguments about the entanglement of connectivity, growth, and development are operationalized. ‘Connectivity’ is offered as a necessary, and sometimes even sufficient, condition from which growth and economic development can be brought into being: a set of spatial imaginaries that conveniently support a national development strategy of remaking Kenya in the contemporary knowledge economy.

Related work:

Graham, M. 2019. Changing Connectivity and Digital Economies at Global Margins. In Graham, M. (ed) 2019 Digital Economies at Global Margins. Cambridge MA: MIT Press. 1-18.

Graham, M., and Anwar, M. A. 2019. The Global Gig Economy: Towards a Planetary Labour Market? First Monday. 24(4). doi.org/10.5210/fm.v24i4.9913.

Mann, L and Graham, M. 2016 The Domestic Turn: Business Process Outsourcing and the Growing Automation of Kenyan Organisations. Journal of Development Studies 52:4, 530-548, DOI: 10.1080/00220388.2015.1126251.

Graham, M., Andersen, C., and Mann, L. 2015 Geographical Imagination and Technological Connectivity in East Africa. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 40(3) 334-349.

Graham, M. 2013. Geography/Internet: Ethereal Alternate Dimensions of Cyberspace or Grounded Augmented Realities? The Geographical Journal 179(2) 177-182.

Graham, M. and L. Mann. 2013. Imagining a Silicon Savannah? Technological and Conceptual Connectivity in Kenya's BPO and Software Development Sectors. Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries. 56(2). 1-19.

Digital Economies at Global Margins
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I am happy to announce that my new edited book 'Digital Economies at Global Margins' is now out!

It was a pleasure working with so many brilliant thinkers and scholars who produced the critical and cutting-edge research you’ll find in the book. A huge thanks to all of the authors who contributed.

Below you can find a brief summary. To see the table of contents, head over the the IDRC or MIT websites where you can also download it for free or buy the paper version.

Digital Economies at Global Margins
Over the last five years, more than one billion people became new Internet users. Once, digital connectivity was confined to economically prosperous parts of the world; now Internet users make up a majority of the world’s population. In this book, contributors from a range of disciplines and locations investigate the impact of increased digital connectivity on people and places at the world’s economic margins. Does the advent of a digitalized economy mean that those in economic peripheries can transcend spatial, organizational, social, and political constraints—or do digital tools and techniques tend to reinforce existing inequalities?

The contributors present a diverse set of case studies, reporting on digitalization in countries ranging from Chile to Kenya to the Philippines, and develop a broad range of theoretical positions. They consider, among other things, data-driven disintermediation, women’s economic empowerment and gendered power relations, digital humanitarianism and philanthropic capitalism, the spread of innovation hubs, hackathons, the gig economy, and a rethinking of how a more progressive politics of connectivity could look.

Three visions for how information and communication technologies alter positionalities at global economic margins

I'm currently working on a book chapter about our 'digital labour and gig economy' research. The chapter attempts to contextualise plans and projects to expand digital labour schemes by governments, third-sector organisations, and private sector actors. In writing the chapter, I thought it would be useful to outline the three broad perspectives that I have encountered in previous research. 

Imaginaries of the ways that technologies alter positionalities at the world’s economic margins are used to open up or limit possibilities. They are used to drive policies and plans; and they are deployed to shift attention and resources in some directions and away from others. It is therefore worth thinking about the nature of them, and what sort of changes they actually propose to bring into being. 

The three outlined below are taken from the following paper.

Graham, M. 2015. Contradictory Connectivity: Spatial Imaginaries and Techno-Mediated Positionalities in Kenya's Outsourcing Sector. Environment and Planning A 47 867-883 (pre-publicaion version here).

But I'd welcome other directions and other readings as edit this chapter.

The global village

This is one of the most persistent visions underpinning hopes about transformations that the internet can bring about. Built on Barlow’s (1996) vision of the internet as an ontic space in which states ‘have no sovereignty where we gather’. The global village allows any connected economic actor to be brought into a shared digital market space or communications space. Positionalities can be transcended and barriers to non-proximate interactions have technical fixes. The global village imaginary allows for a vision that anything can be done from anywhere.

Shrinking distance

This vision centres on the perceived ways in which technology would shrink geographic frictions with richer, faster, and cheaper connections and those diminishing frictions, in turn, lead conceptions of distance as a unit that can be shrunk. In other words, frictions between places are seen to be significant impediments holding back trade; and information and communication technologies (ICTs) not only eliminate those frictions, but facilitate and mediate a global economy. While this perspective shares much in common with the global village, there are significant differences between the two. Both perspectives attribute significant power and agency to technology and allow it to function as a bridge, intermediary, or tool that can fundamentally transform positionalities. Both highlight how the location of a business or businessperson could be rendered irrelevant: business can now be transacted with anyone, anywhere. However, while the global village perspective explains this change because of access to the Internet, the shrinking distance perspective makes the same argument with a focus instead on the diminishing role that distance plays. In the former, geographic positionality no longer matters (hence the temptation to assign an ontic role to digital spaces), whereas, in the latter, geographic positionalities retain more significance: the world here remains material and augmented (rather than as a dualism between virtual and material spaces), but distance between those material places becomes less important. The shrinking distance perspective ultimately presents a world of potential. The old barriers
of distance and geography, that previously rendered some places as peripheries and some places as cores, have melted away; and it is only a matter of time before people in economic margins can begin to buy, sell, and interact with anyone, anywhere

Digital augmentations

Finally, there are visions of digital augmentations in which economic actors neither imagine a digital global village in which they can interact with their peers, or a world in which distance had become meaningless. Instead, they focus on the incremental changes brought about by ICTs and the ways in which those changes are embedded into existing networks, structures, and positionalities. The primary argument put forward here is that distance is just one hurdle to cross. As such, the ability of ICTs to mediate new types of communication and information flow is of necessarily limited benefit. This recognition of the myriad social, economic, and political challenges inherent to doing business across international borders results in a conceptualization of distance as always socially constructed and always grounded in individual contingencies and positionalities. In other words, we are offered a more modest view of what new communications affordances can achieve. There is no sense that human territoriality can be replaced by communication technologies, and there is a full recognition of the fully augmented and relational links between technology, space, and economic activity.
 

Related readings

Smart, C., Donner, J., and Graham, M. 2016. Connecting the World from the Sky: Spatial Discourses Around Internet Access in the Developing World. Eighth International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development. http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2909609.2909659

Graham, M., Andersen, C., and Mann, L. 2015 Geographical Imagination and Technological Connectivity in East Africa. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 40(3) 334-349. (pre-publication version here).

Graham, M. 2013. Geography/Internet: Ethereal Alternate Dimensions of Cyberspace or Grounded Augmented Realities? The Geographical Journal 179(2) 177-182(pre-publication version here).

Graham, M. 2011. Time Machines and Virtual Portals: The Spatialities of the Digital DivideProgress in Development Studies. 11 (3). 211-227.

Graham, M. 2008. Warped Geographies of Development: The Internet and Theories of Economic Development. Geography Compass, 2(3), 771-789.