Seyram Avle, University of Michigan School of Information: Elihu Katz Colloquium Speaker Series

Elihu Katz Colloquium Series
06 Oct 2017 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm
The Annenberg School for Communication, Room 500
ASC Only

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Innovating to Survive: African Tech Entrepreneurs and the Global Discourse of Technology Production 

Increasingly, software coding, making, and tech entrepreneurship are positioned by governments, business leaders, media and educational institutions alike as part of a critical toolkit for individuals and states in the 21st century. Building on a neoliberal logic, promoters argue that such skills can democratize production and encourage citizens to see themselves as producers of technologies. This discourse has shown surprising consistency in econo-political structures as different as the United States, China, and several countries in Africa. 

In this talk, Avle will show how this discourse of production unfolds in the lived everyday of tech entrepreneurs working in Ghana and Ethiopia. She will focus on disentangling the social and transnational configurations of power feeding this discourse, and show what is at stake for those living on a continent seen simultaneously as being on the periphery of technological innovation and as the next frontier for discovery. Shes argue that the allure of this discourse in Ghana and Ethiopia rests on a sense of survivability in the global economy, accompanied by a redefinition of what it means to be African today.

Seyram Avle is a Research Fellow at the University of Michigan's School of Information. In 2018, she will begin as an Assistant Professor in the Communication Department of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Her research critically examines the situated practices and discourses of digital technologies/media in and from the global south. Her stated goal is to provide empirically rigorous and theoretically robust explanations for the ways that digital technologies are being designed and used around the world. To accomplish this, she studies 1) technology entrepreneurship and production 2) the interfacing of digital media and traditional media in parts of Africa and China. For more information about her research and publications, please visit her website:

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