/ Feats, Faiths, Futures: Technology & Hope in the Caribbean

This is an ethnographic study of how smartphones and internet services are being produced and re-interpreted by the makers, translators, and adopters of these technologies in Jamaica. The project focuses on three different but mutually-informed groups. The first is a community of start-up entrepreneurs who are building applications and services for audiences at home and abroad, while attempting to gain a foothold and fashion identities in a global economy and technology community. The second is the efforts of the state, NGOs, and international technology companies, who are attempting to nurture a local technology landscape while promoting their particular institutional perspectives. Finally, there is the broader public arena, where both groups are joined by a wide array of individual actors in debating and articulating the value of these ICT efforts.

Our approach draws on regional cultural insights, wider technoscience accounts of technological appropriation and development in marginal contexts, along with studies of politics, power, resistance, and future-making discourse. It addresses the critical questions: how are ICTs imagined, adopted and altered by those who see technological capability as crucial to both their future? How does the form & function of ICT platforms influence that belief? How does a hope & faith in technology, and how do these ideas about what technology can do circulate? How are individuals, and groups (companies, states, NGOs) capitalizing on these developing ideas of technology? How do vernacular practices on the ground complicate the enactment of those strategies? Finally, how are identities being shaped by these competing narratives?

Participants: Kaiton Williams, Phoebe Sengers