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AAG 2015 CFP - From Online Sweat Shops to Silicon Savannahs: Geographies of Production in Digital Economies of Low-Income Countries


From Online Sweat Shops to Silicon Savannahs: 
Geographies of Production in Digital Economies of Low-Income Countries

AAG Annual Meeting, Chicago, April 21-25, 2015

Organizers:
Mark Graham, Nicolas Friederici, and Isis Hjorth University of Oxford

Throughout the early 21st century, Internet and mobile phone access in developing countries has skyrocketed, and today the majority of people on the planet are connected through information and communication technologies (ICTs). Yet, while basic ICT access is increasingly level across income groups and geographies, production in the global digital economy is still, and maybe increasingly, dominated by incumbent multinational technology corporations or fast-scaling web startups. These businesses tend to roll out their products (with some local adaptation) across the globe, but maintain their coordinating and creative activities in places like Silicon Valley, Tel Aviv, or London, exploiting both agglomeration and dispersion economies in digital production (Malecki & Moriset, 2007; Moriset & Malecki, 2009).


How does digital production in low-income countries fare in the face of this dominance? Policymakers and the private sector in several low-income countries (especially in Sub-Saharan Africa) have set out to transform their economies through ICTs, explicitly emphasizing local digital production. Two sectors that are often seen as promising are (1) low-skill/cost-competition, such as business process outsourcing and digital microwork, and (2) high-skill/entrepreneurial innovation, such as startups developing and commercializing mobile and online applications.


However, what are the concrete and realistic potentials and possibilities for low-income countries to become important hubs for digital production? What are palpable economic outcomes of Kenya’s status as the “Silicon Savannah” or Lagos as the “Silicon Lagoon,” and who are the winners and losers of local ICT entrepreneurship and innovation? Do ICTs really deliver economic inclusion and employment to remote geographies and low-income groups, or are we witnessing the rise of online sweatshops that further enhance exploitation of vulnerable populations?


This session will explore these themes, encouraging contributions from a variety of perspectives. We invite authors to consider digital production in low-income/developing countries through lenses such as:

  • Empirical or theoretical perspectives on digital production and its (uneven) geographies
  • Discourse around digital production and its promises and risks
  • Distributions of value creation and extraction across actor groups (winners/losers)
  • Tensions of scaling versus local adaptation in digital production, in application to geography and inclusion/exclusion effects
  • Uneven production geographies within countries, in particular, differences and divides between rural/peri-urban/urban clusters
  • Socio-demographic analyses of economic actors engaging in digital production
  • Case studies of low-skill/cost-competition digital production (e.g., business process outsourcing, microwork, etc.)
  • Case studies of high-skill/entrepreneurial innovation in digital production (e.g., mobile/online applications startups, technology innovation hubs)
  • Analyses and recommendations for local and international policy pertaining to digital production

To be considered for the session, please send your abstract of 250 words or fewer, to: mark.graham@oii.ox.ac.uk, nicolas.friederici@oii.ox.ac.uk, and isis.hjorth@oii.ox.ac.uk

The deadline for receipt of abstracts is October 1 2014. Notification of acceptance will be before October 7. All accepted papers will then need to register for the AAG conference at aag.org. Accepted papers will be considered for a special issue or edited volume edited by the organizers.
 


Malecki, E. J., & Moriset, B. (2007). The paradox of a “double-edged” geography: local ecosystems of the digital economy. In The Digital Economy: Business Organization, Production Processes and Regional Developments (pp. 174–198). New York, NY: Routledge.
Moriset, B., & Malecki, E. J. (2009). Organization versus Space: The Paradoxical Geographies of the Digital Economy. Geography Compass, 3(1), 256–274.

AAG 2015 CFP - Digital Connectivity, Inclusion, and Inequality at the World’s Economic Margins
Digital Connectivity, Inclusion, and Inequality at the World’s Economic Margins
AAG Annual Meeting, Chicago, April 21-25, 2015

Organisers:
Mark Graham and Chris Foster, University of Oxford

We are in the throes of a global transformation of digital connectivity. Over six billion people have access to phones and two and a half billion people use the internet. Meanwhile, governments, international organisations, and corporations are developing plans, projects, and policies to connect the remaining disconnected. Fibre-optic cables, laptops for every child, and drones, balloons, and satellites all beaming down internet access are just some of the strategies being actively planned to bring connectivity to the rest of the world in the coming years. 

As we approach a situation in which almost half of humanity is online, we need to explore the difference people expect connectivity to make at the world’s economic peripheries. Will connectivity amplify or deepen economic inequalities? Should we expect empowerment, inclusion, and opportunities; or further exploitation and extraversion?

This session brings together papers that seek to explore the differences that connectivity makes, and can make, in the contemporary international division of labour and on-going global shifts in economic flows. It will critically explore ‘Bottom of the Pyramid’ networked capitalism, and the opportunities, struggles, and alternatives that it underpins. It will also facilitate a space for research that addresses the central question of ‘who benefits and who doesn’t from the increasing networking of the world’s population?’

Potential topics include:

  • Discourses around connectivity, inclusion, and exclusion in the Global South
  • ICT and development policies and who they ultimately benefit.
  • Changes to global value chains or production networks
  • Opportunities for upgrading or disintermediation
  • Empirical or theoretical engagements with the idea of ‘connectivity’ and the roles that it can play amongst the world’s poorest
  • Contemporary or historical treatments of the links between connectivity and inequality
  • Alternative ways of imagining or envisioning connectivity at the world’s economic peripheries
  • Case studies of global ‘body shopping’, digital work, or bottom of the pyramid capitalism
  • Policies and initiatives for digital connectivity which support inclusion and reduced inequality

Submission Procedure:

To be considered for the session, please send your abstract of 250 words or fewer, to: mark.graham@oii.ox.ac.uk and christopher.foster@oii.ox.ac.uk

The deadline for receipt of abstracts is October 1 2014. Notification of acceptance will be before October 7. All accepted papers will then need to register for the AAG conference at aag.org. Accepted papers will be considered for a special issue or edited volume edited by the organisers.
Call for papers: Data Shadows and Urban Augmented Realities (at the Association of American Geographers)

Call for Papers: Data Shadows and Urban Augmented Realities


Most parts of our urban areas have become both digitally connected and represented by digitalized information. Digital layers of geographic information (commonly referred to as “augmented reality” by computer scientists) can take myriad forms. The most visible of which are probably the digital maps that many people use to navigate through cities. Google, Yahoo!, Wikipedia, Apple, OpenStreetMap, Baidu, and many other companies and organisations all host publicly accessible platforms that partially reflect parts of our world. These services also become the platform for an almost unimaginable amount of additional content that both reflects the materiality of cities and augments it with additional content. This additional volunteered (and emitted) geographic information is comprised of photographs, blogs, tweets, social media checkins, webcams, videos, and encyclopedia articles. These layers of digital representations are then further reproduced and repurposed in the ways that they annotate the urban environment


The ambition of this session is to interrogate the increasing prevalence of both geographically referenced digital information and the code through which it is regulated. By asking what these augmented realities are, where they are and where they are not, and how they are brought into being, we can both unpack the language we use to speak about digital augmentations and explore the ways in which digital extensions of place are becoming increasingly important in everyday, lived geographies.

This session seeks two kinds of papers. First it aims to provide space for papers that explore the ways in which we should imagine, describe, critique, and even name, the digital and informational augmentations of our lives. Second, the session seeks papers that critically examine information geographies and augmented realities in specific contexts. How do informational augmentations impact on how we bring our worlds into being? What and where do they exclude? What narratives and discourses do they allow, and what do they conceal? How are they governed, regulated, and challenged?


Please submit abstracts of less than 250 words to Mark Graham (mark.graham@oii.ox.ac.uk) and Matthew Zook (zook@uky.edu) before October 31, 2013.  We will review abstracts in order to form cohesive sessions.

Technology as an Agent of Economic and Social Change in Africa? Connecting Historical and Contemporary Debates (call for participation)



Call for participation

CAS@50 : Cutting Edges and Retrospectives, 
Centre of African Studies, University of Edinburgh
6th June 2012 09:00 – 8th June 2012

This panel aims to address some of the ahistoricity of the Information and Communication Technologies for Development field (ICT4D). It does so by focusing on experienced, enacted, and imagined changes in African economic relationships and positionalities due to technologies of connectivity in a contemporary and historical perspective.

ICT4D is a term used to denote a collection of activities that have framed electronic technologies as being useful for socio-economic development. Such technologies (and technologically mediated practices) may incorporate computers, mobile phones and the Internet, and may be used for a variety of developmental ends including health, education and economic activities. Much of the ICT4D literature tends to depict these technologies as ‘revolutionary’ and frames the changes that they engender as unique to our current age. This outlook neglects the longer history of the notion that economies in Africa can be ‘revolutionised’ through technologies – ideas which have been seminal both to the ‘civilising missions’ of the European colonial empires and in the development programmes of colonial and post-colonial states.

This dialogue between historical and contemporary perspectives has a number of approaches and theories to draw upon, including among others Kapil Raj’s ideas about ‘Relocating Modern Science’, Helen Tilley’s notion of ‘Africa as a Living Laboratory’, David Edgerton’s use orientated approach to technological development and Timothy Mitchell’s contributions to post-colonial theory. What these approaches have in common is that they forcefully challenge any simplistic notion of technological diffusion and economic development. As Timothy Mitchell writes, “the practices that form the economy operate, in part, to establish equivalences, contain circulations, identify social actors or agents, make quantities and performances measurable, and designate relations of control and command”. This panel will use these theories as building blocks on which to understand how technological change reshapes our understandings about how the economy operates, the way in which the economy is measured and the way in which economic space is territorialised, both socially and spatially. It will therefore look critically at how contemporary ICT diffusion compare with earlier technological and economic ‘revolutions’.

Themes may include:

  • past and current aspects of control over and use of new technologies of connectivity
  • the relations between newly introduced technologies and existing technologies and material culture
  • shifting perceptions of the benefits and beneficiaries of new technologies  
  • patterns of communication and imagined social, economic and political identities within, between and beyond African border
  • changing ideas and conceptualisations of technology as a driver of economic change and development
  • comparative studies of different forms of technologies in relation to economic development and economic theory
  • the role of technologies in the territorialization and de-territorialization of economic space
  • shifting roles of state and non-state agents in contemporary ICT4D and its historical predecessors
  • the diffusion of technology as a justification of wider political or social projects
In order to best provoke discussion, we would like participants to prepare short papers (4-5000 words) that will be circulated ahead of time and to prepare short presentations (5-10 minutes) so as to maximize discussion and debate during the roundtable. We ultimately hope for participants to expand their papers into contributions for an edited volume.

Panel Organizers:
Casper Andersen, Department of Culture and Society/Aarhus University, Laura Mann and Mark Graham, Oxford Internet Institute/University of Oxford

If you are interested in taking part, please send abstracts to Laura Mann (lauramann82@gmail.com) by February 31st, 2012.