by ADERAYO SANUSI, Princeton University
What Do Science, Technology, and Innovation Mean from Africa?
Edited by Clapperton Chakanetsa Mavhunga
256 pp, MIT Press
"Imagine a positive Africa—creative, technological, and scientific in its own way." (1)
Several countries in Africa are in a critical period of expanding tech entrepreneurship and foreign investment. Innovation hubs are proliferating, following decades of rapid local adoption of mobile phones and digital platforms. And in the past three years, top Silicon Valley executives like Zuckerberg, Sundar Pichai, and Jack Dorsey have visited the continent to meet emergent developer communities and learn about new products and ventures.
As these developments are documented on various media platforms and business school case books, an emerging group of scholars, practitioners, and activists have begun to critique what they characterize as incorrect, harmful discourses about the technological contributions of Africans. They are typically represented merely...
“What can those of us who work in, and maybe even love, computing cultures do about computing’s colonial expansions?”
Sareeta Amrute’s keynote address “Tech Colonialism Today” opened EPIC2019 in a provocative, mobilizing spirit that inspired discussions on stage, in breakout sessions, and around breakfast tables. Sareeta journeyed across time and territory to explore what characteristics make something colonial to begin with, such as extractive and hierarchical systems. As you might guess, she argued that yes, the tech industry today has core colonial attributes. But goal wasn’t just critique; Sareeta showcased counterconduct—the agency that people, communities, and companies have to build alternatives.
If colonial legacies and socioeconomic systems seem a bit “out of scope” as context for standard product or user research projects, check out Sareeta’s award-winning book Encoding Race, Encoding Class. You’ll learn about Meena’s daily tea ritual, hear Bipin describe why he sometimes chooses to write bad code,...
EPIC2019 Keynote Address, Providence, Rhode Island
SAREETA AMRUTE, Director of Research, Data & Society; Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Washington
Studies on the social effects of computing have enumerated the harms done by AI, social media, and algorithmic decision-making to underrepresented communities in the United States and around the globe. I argue that the approaches of enumerating harms and arguing for inclusion have to be unsettled. These approaches, while important, frame populations as victims whose existence is dominated by and divided from centers of power. We lack a structural analysis of how these harms fit into a larger social economic pattern. I ask us to consider instead whether all of these harms add up to computing technologies today being one of the largest aspects of a colonial relationship today. Using historical evidence, the talk will consider what makes something ‘colonial’ to begin with, and then weigh corporate computing’s relationship with the world to gauge whether...
JUSTIN B. RICHLAND
Associate Professor of Anthropology, UC Irvine; Faculty Fellow, American Bar Foundation; Associate Justice, The Hopi Appellate Court
EPIC2018 Keynote Address...