Africa at Noon on November 12, 2014

Critical Reflections on Qualitative ICTD Research: Collaborative Ethnography in Rural Zambia*

Lindsay Palmer
Assistant Professor, Journalism and Mass Communication
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Time and Location

12:00pm, 206 Ingra­ham Hall, 1155 Obser­va­tory Drive, Madi­son, WI

Download Poster (pdf)


This talk reflects critically upon the collaborative, ethnographic methodology that Palmer and co-author Lisa Parks applied to the first two years of their four-year research project in the Zambian village of Macha. While Palmer and Parks were in that community, they worked with a variety of local people who we trained to conduct and record interviews with mobile “Flip-Video” cameras. Crucial to their methodology was the effort at listening to our collaborators, rather than merely speaking: following their lead, taking their  advice, and learning from the interview questions that they personally devised. The duo focused on such collaboration in order to seek what Donna Haraway calls “situated knowledges” and “partial truths.” Rather than taking the discourse of ICT “development” for granted—discourse that they feel is often motivated by capitalist or neocolonialist impulses—Palmer and Parks have set out to find a method that could enable the mutual exchange of information and education while trying to understand local knowledges about information technology.


Lindsay Palmer is an assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at UW Madison. She is also an affiliate of the Global Studies program. Palmer has recently conducted research on the cultural uses of the Internet and mobile phones in Macha, Zambia. She soon plans to return in order to conduct a new study on the censorship of journalists in Zambia’s capital, Lusaka.

*This presentation derives from a paper of the same title co-authored with Lisa Parks, Professor of Film and Media Studies, University of California Santa Barbara