Three I School doctoral students, Bob Bell, Joshua Blumenstock, and Elisa Oreglia, have received grants from Intel Research in support of their research studying cultural politics of technology consumption in different regions of the world.
Elisa Oreglia's dissertation, Migrant Women and Information and Communication Technologies in the Making of Rural China, focuses on young migrant women working in the personal services industry. These women often leave their villages for the the economic opportunity of the city, where they are exposed to new patterns of technology consumption. The grant will enable Oreglia to perform preliminary fieldwork in China; she will be exploring how Chinese rural-to-urban young migrant women use technology in their social lives, and whether the women play a role in bringing technologies back to the countryside when they return to their homes in rural China.
Bob Bell is currently studying the evolution of Kenya’s IT services outsourcing industry. Kenya’s outsourcing-related companies focus on website development, software development, call centers, and knowledge process outsourcing. Bell will be conducting preliminary fieldwork in Kenya this summer, to investigate how transnational relationships are created and managed, how information and communications technologies help mediate and sustain these relationships, and how technology and labor talent help bridge the cultural distance between these firms and their Western counterparts. This research fits within his larger goal of understanding the globalization of technology-intensive industries and the cultural and social implications of these emerging business models in sub-Saharan Africa.
Joshua Blumenstock's doctoral research looks at mobile phone use in Rwanda. As mobile phones reach the remote corners of the world, they have the potential to transform global development. Already, over two thirds of the world's mobile phones are in developing countries, and Nokia estimates that by 2012 over 90 percent of sub-Saharan Africa will have mobile coverage. Blumenstock's dissertation measures the broader impacts mobile phones are having on the agriculturally-based economies of rural Rwanda. In particular, he is exploring how mobile phones help Rwandans cope with risk and income volatility by increasing the efficiency of regional commodity markets and by allowing individuals to transfer funds over the mobile network to deal with temporary economic shocks. The grant will support Blumenstock's field research in Rwanda during summer 2009.
In addition to the three I School students, a fourth grant was awarded to Graham Bullock, a UC Berkeley doctoral candidate in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management.
Each student will receive $5000 for field research, as well as funding to attend a workshop in Fall 2009, where they will meet jointly with Intel researchers and students from the University of Washington who are engaged in related research. The principal investigator of the project is I School Assistant Professor Jenna Burrell.
The research funding comes from Intel Research's "People and Practices" Group, who are working on a research project called "Consumerization" to examine the processes that create, transform, and maintain consumer identities in relation to technology adoption. Their research engages with the processes which are producing new, diverse, and competing understandings of technology consumption and class. They are looking critically at the interactions among government, business, and the consumers themselves that shape cultures of consumption and technology adoption (in particular policies, business strategies and consumption practices/aspirations).