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Invisible Users: Youth in the Internet Cafes of Urban Ghana
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Invisible Users: Youth in the Internet Cafes of Urban Ghana (Hardback)

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Synopsis

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



The urban youth frequenting the Internet cafes of Accra, Ghana, who are decidedly not members of their country's elite, use the Internet largely as a way to orchestrate encounters across distance and amass foreign ties-activities once limited to the wealthy, university-educated classes. The Internet, accessed on second-hand computers (castoffs from the United States and Europe), has become for these youths a means of enacting a more cosmopolitan self. In Invisible Users, Jenna Burrell offers a richly observed account of how these Internet enthusiasts have adopted, and adapted to their own priorities, a technological system that was not designed with them in mind.



Burrell describes the material space of the urban Internet cafe and the virtual space of push and pull between young Ghanaians and the foreigners they encounter online; the region's famous 419 scam strategies and the rumors of "big gains" that fuel them; the influential role of churches and theories about how the supernatural operates through the network; and development rhetoric about digital technologies and the future viability of African Internet cafes in the region.



Burrell, integrating concepts from science and technology studies and African studies with empirical findings from her own field work in Ghana, captures the interpretive flexibility of technology by users in the margins but also highlights how their invisibility puts limits on their full inclusion into a global network society.

Jenna Burrell is Associate Professor in the School of Information at the University of California, Berkeley. Bonnie A. Nardi is Professor of Informatics in the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of California, Irvine, and Cofounder of Center for Research in Sustainability, Collapse-preparedness, and Information Technology there. She is the coauthor of Acting with Technology (MIT Press). Victor Kaptelinin is Professor in the Department of Informatics at Umea University, Sweden, and Professor in the Department of Information Science and Media Studies at the University of Bergen, Norway. He is coeditor of Beyond the Desktop Metaphor: Designing Integrated Digital Work Environments (MIT Press, 2007). Kirsten A. Foot is Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Washington, and lead author of Web Campaigning (MIT Press).

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