Seeing (from) Digital Peripheries: Technology and Transparency in Kenya's Silicon Savannah

Lisa Poggiali
2016 Cultural Anthropology  
The equipment-free aspect of reality here has become the height of artifice; the sight of immediate reality has become an orchid in the land of technology." -Walter Benjamin "We don't map those," Kyale stated emphatically, gesturing to the spigot jutting out of a makeshift mud structure from which women were collecting water in plastic jerry cans. His GPS unit dangled from a cord wrapped around his wrist, and it swayed in step with his measured gait as we passed by the water point. A flicker of
more » ... point. A flicker of confusion must have swept across my face, and Kyale leaned over and whispered to me: "That water point is not by the government, but by the community. It's illegal, so we don't map it." It was nearing the second hour of our data collection expedition in Kyale's neighborhood, an informal settlement of Nairobi, Kenya, that I will call Muhimu. A few moments later, Kyale paused in front of a different water point-this one with a Nairobi City Water and Sewage Company (NCWSC) meter attached-and recorded its latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates with his GPS device. Later, taking respite from the heat of the day, he would retreat indoors to upload these coordinates to a computer using the software platform Java OpenStreetMap Editor (JOSM). By aggregating his data with those collected by other volunteer mappers over the span of a few
doi:10.14506/ca31.3.07 fatcat:azay6ozb4bhxhpd73hqyioyn7i