Africa, the continent with the world’s most concentrated poverty, has been the highest adopter of mobile technology for the past 10 years. Africa’s Internet, though hardly reliable, is the world’s primary “mobile first” network, and so leads innovation in ways that are typically ahead of tech development in the U.S. Why is this the case? This upper level course surveys the past 20 years of digital technology on the continent as a whole. Readings also include case study research of micro-tech practices (pinging, social video and mobile money transfer, etc.) as well as political and social use of new media (Arab/African Spring, #bringbackourgirls). Information Technology and Development are key areas of focus in this course, as well as broader social anthropology of Africa. Sites of interest include Anglophone Africa, but also broader African digital publics and events: Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Senegal, Cameroon, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and more. Students will be encouraged to think critically about their own technology use, and also develop tools that may be useful for Africa’s media ecology. The coursework includes readings and critical online responses. Students are expected to write 1 major term paper and produce 1 major tech project/prototype. Prior knowledge of coding or Web development is not required.
Africa 405: Africa + the Internet: An Introduction to Digital Life on the Continent
Meeting Time: Tuesdays & Thursdays 2:30 – 3:45 PM
Dr. Reginold Royston is jointly-appointed in the School of Information (formerly SLIS) and the Department of African Cultural Studies. Dr. Royston’s research interests include New Media and innovation in the African Diaspora. He does ethnographic research in Ghana, the U.S., and the Netherlands, examining Ghana’s digital diaspora. As a researcher, developer and professor of information and technology studies, Dr. Royston has produced and designed dozens of new media apps and campaigns with students and collaborators. Dr. Royston worked for 15 years as a reporter, graphics designer, and cultural critic for Knight Ridder, Village Voice Media, and National Geographic.com. He has been active in community organizations in Washington, D.C., Minneapolis, and Oakland, CA.