Material Ecosystems: Theorizing (Digital) Technologies in Socio-Economic Development

Burrell, J (2016) Material Ecosystems: Theorizing (Digital) Technologies in Socio-Economic Development. Information Technologies and International Development. 12(1): 1-13.


This article presents a material ecosystemic approach as a theoretical grounding for understanding digital technologies as potential catalysts of socioeconomic development. Through such an approach, talk of “technology” is replaced by talk of the “material.” Material is understood as inclusive of the human-made as well as the natural, of human relationships, human bodies, and words spoken. And the social is always necessarily materialized. These elements provide some clues as to how to move toward an improved ethic of design. The case of mobile phone use for ªnancial practices among low- and lower-middle-income urban Ugandans is offered as a substantive case. The particular assumptions of modernization underlying calls for “ªnancial inclusion” and the distinction between informal and formal are reconsidered through the lens of material ecosystemic analysis


Last updated:

October 18, 2016