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Marcus Watson

Are Digital Technologies an Alienating Form of Communication? The Case of the Bulsa of Ghana’s Upper East Region

Funded Projects, February 2014

WIHR Research Presentation: Thursday, November 13, 2014 at 3:00 p.m. in Classroom Building Room 209

Researcher: Marcus Watson
Department: Global and Area Studies

Digital technologies (DTs) promise to make communication instantaneous. But does instant contact with faraway others depend on feeling increasingly alienated from those who remain physically present? This question anchors the proposed project, which involves a month and a half of ethnographic study in the summer of 2014 among the Bulsa of Ghana’s Upper East Region. The study culminates in a peer-reviewed journal article that advances understandings of the impacts of DTs on cultural meanings, interpersonal communication, and social change in rural African settings. Currently, most studies see DTs as an unquestioned good for such settings, yet the optimism relies largely on macro-level, quantitative vantage points. By joining Bulsa in their daily experiences of DT use, the researcher retrieves qualitative data, which helps ground findings in the nuances of real human activity and steers debate away from “numbers” and toward actual people and their perceptions of reality.  

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