Accepted Paper:

An Island is a World  


Kaiton Williams (Cornell University)

Paper short abstract:

Within its effort to promote tech entrepreneurship, Jamaica’s diverse culture & material infrastructure is often a source of anxiety. But that heterogeneity yields significant potential, both for its budding developers and for those seeking alternatives to dominant ideas of technical praxis.

Paper long abstract:

Over the last 5 years, several programs in Jamaica have attempted to centre the country as a site of technology development. This focus on data, apps, and internet services proffers lush futures where islanders can triumph over historical biases. But capitalising on these possibilities has meant applying development methodologies, imagined as universal, across geographical, cultural, and infrastructural distances.

In this often technocratic imagination of what Jamaica should be, its society, culture, and material infrastructure appear as sources of anxiety, rather than opportunities. When viewed from this perspective, its development scene seems chaotic and underproductive, with few, if any, mainstream successes.

But seen through another lens, the work in these spaces---often as much focused on the individual and national self as on the artifact---reflects a navigation and embrace of a radical and seemingly incoherent variety of cultural forms, discontinuities, and allegiances. While this negotiation challenges rote acceptance of the imported methodology, as an orientation it offers instructive alternatives to dominant ideas of technical prowess and the figure of the entrepreneurial engineer. In this regard, islands like Jamaica are among the vanguard, allowing access to alternative futures with global resonance.

Panel T155
Islands on the Cutting Edge: Test sites for reimagining future technoscience