TitleThe art of connection
NameMahoney, Dillon (author), Haugerud, Angelique (chair), Hodgson, Dorothy (internal member), Hughes, David (internal member), Schein, Louisa (internal member), Steiner, Christopher (outside member), Rutgers University, Graduate School - New Brunswick,
DescriptionHow does the social and economic context in which new communication technologies are introduced shape the ways small-scale traders understand, gain access to, and use them? How does the digital divide in access to communication technologies reproduce or counter pre-existing inequalities? This dissertation is based on 26 months of participant observation in Kenya since 2001, when I investigated the competition and economic precariousness found among art traders, exporters, and art-producing organizations and cooperatives. In this dissertation I focus on the recent effects of cell phones and the internet. To clarify the contemporary importance of mobile communication technologies for Kenyans working in the shadow of the coastal tourism industry, I discuss the history of social inequality in Mombasa, the consolidation of curio art traders and cooperatives in the port city, and Kenya's political economy of ICT access. Following the removal of the roadside kiosks housing my initial sample of 2001, I investigated the strategies of small-scale art vendors as they struggled to survive economic change. This dissertation captures the story of the rise of the cell phone entrepreneur and the related decline of the cooperative societies around which Kenya's curio industry had long been structured. For economically disadvantaged actors, cell phones and email have become important for negotiating disparities in access not only to technologies, but also to jobs, capital, personal networks, and political representation. I argue that when state policy is not conducive to the formalization, legalization, and development of small-scale traders, ICTs can heighten social insecurity and economic precariousness among these businesspeople. Because the responsibility to manage risk has been abandoned by the Kenyan state and left to individual citizens and informal social and ethnic networks, the story of the digital divide among my research participants became one of ups and downs, repeated connection and disconnection, and intense competition. I demonstrate how the use of ICTs has left its mark on the individual men and women who drive Mombasa's curio industry, as well as the art itself.
NoteIncludes bibliographical references (p. 351-379)
Noteby Dillon Mahoney
CollectionGraduate School - New Brunswick Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Organization NameRutgers, The State University of New Jersey
RightsThe author owns the copyright to this work.