Disruptive geographies: communication technologies and economic reconfigurations at the periphery
Mark Graham, Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford
Laura Mann, Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford
Call for papers for the 2013 meeting of the AAG in Los Angeles.
“In the new millennium, the world’s poor are still at the bottom of the pyramid, but this time they are the fortune that can be mined, not the workers whose labor feeds all.” (Roy 2012)
Much has been written about the death of distance and the end of geography. The spread of the Internet and other communications technologies combined with booming practices of offshoring left many to talk about a techno-mediated new international division of labour and a global shift in economic flows. However, geography continues to matter as much as ever while global body shopping seems to be largely confined to low-end work.
Yet, the geography of internet and communications infrastructure has again radically changed in the last few years: potentially upsetting relationships of global production and consumption. There are now over two billion Internet users and five billion mobile phone users. Barriers to access still exist, but are less pronounced than ever before. As such, geographic barriers are potentially less relevant for many of the movements of codified information and services that happen around the world. This opens up possibilities for significant economic and social transformation and disruption: especially in the world’s peripheries.
For instance, ‘Bottom of the Pyramid’ capitalism has gained prominence among scholars of economic development and ‘social enterprise.’ Multinational companies are increasingly viewing the world’s poorest as willing consumers and part of profitable developing world markets. New technologies combined with old social networks are said to bypass old and cumbersome distribution networks, making new populations accessible to transnational capital and global consumption in unprecedented ways. In addition, many firms and entrepreneuers across the South are themselves building new transnational businesses that leverage the ease at which information can move across borders. Northern firms are also attempting to take advantage of the variable frictions between labour, capital, and information in order to engage in ‘bodyshopping,’ offshoring, and outsourcing.
In this session, we wish to interrogate these moments and strategies of disruption. We wish to focus, in particular, on those actors and institutions that have demonstrated an awareness of socio-technical networks and have leveraged themselves and their organizations successfully and profitably. Are these global reconfigurations changing economic relationships and livelihoods on national or society-wide scales or are such moments of disruption confined to highly visible and sophisticated strategies used by a few? If so, can such strategies ultimately be leveraged for broader change? Perhaps most importantly, are reconfigurations of connectivities linked to further empowerment or exploitation for the world’s poorest?
Please email abstracts of 250 words to Mark.Graham@oii.ox.ac.uk and Laura.Mann@oii.ox.ac.uk before October 15th, 2012.