Accepted Paper:

Infrastructure of inspiration: success and style in the production and distribution of mobile applications in Accra, Ghana.  
Tessa Pijnaker (University of Birmingham)

Paper short abstract:

Approaching infrastructure as style, this paper explores how Ghanaian technology entrepreneurs use the production and distribution of mobile applications to become successful in the globalized technology industry in Accra, Ghana.

Paper long abstract:

Current anthropological research has approached infrastructures as the invisible enablers of the circulation of things, people and aesthetics (Star 1999, Larkin 2013). This paper explores how style, as a shared forming form, is reproduced through and shapes infrastructure, creating 'invisibility' (Meyer 2011, 2012). It zooms in on how Ghanaian technology entrepreneurs style themselves and their mobile applications to achieve success in the globalized technology industry in Accra, Ghana. Technology entrepreneurs are young middle-class Ghanaians who (aspire to) own their own technology company or work for one. Based on five months of ethnographic fieldwork, this paper will show that mobile applications, technology hubs and incubators and technology events are shaped by and shape a 'style of inspiration'. This style revolves around certain notions of what it means to be African and to have 'global' and 'inspirational' success. First, this paper explores how this style is mediated through the design and structure of technology hubs and incubators: places run by NGOs that offer Ghanaian technology entrepreneurs office space and funding, network and skill development opportunities. Second, it will pay attention to the styled infrastructure of technology events like hackathons and app challenges. At these events, often organized by NGOs and international corporations, technology entrepreneurs pitch their applications to an international jury. Last, this paper suggests that the way in which technology entrepreneurs shape themselves and their apps, illustrates the power dynamics between entrepreneurs and NGOs in Accra's technology industry.

Panel P092
The art of infrastructure