‘Restricted’ digital/media repertoires in rural Kenya: a constructive critique

Norbert Wildermuth*

*Corresponding author

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review


The ambition of this article is twofold and consists of an attempt to
outline a problematic bias of research attention and interpretation,
discernible in the field of studies that address the appropriation and
usage of new media and networked communication technologies,
as unfolding in Africa. Thus, I voice my concerns in respect to
scholarly attempts, quantitative and qualitative in nature, to
define those who are left behind at the bottom of the digital/
media pyramid, in narrow deterministic terms. Based on
qualitative interviews from fieldwork in Uasin Gishu County,
Kenya I suggest a methodological–analytical approach to
overcome this blind spot of attention and understanding, by
show-casing a different strategy of data generation and
interpretative reading. The article draws attention on the media
practices and routines that are contextually embedded in the
lifeworld concerns and pragmatic decisions of individuals located
at the excluded end of the continuum of communication
ecologies in Kenya. My in-depth presentation and discussion of
two protagonists from rural Ziwa ward seeks to challenge
commonplace characterisations of the causes and consequences
of restricted digital/media repertoires. This includes a rejection of
techno-centric, normative claims that define digital inclusion in
narrow terms and the excluded as human impediments to
democratic transition and development. Instead, I put forward a
situated understanding of digital/media repertoires that while
realised under constrained conditions, nonetheless allow people
to address their lifeworld concerns. Concerns, here understood
‘as activities that matter to people’ (Helle-Valle, J. (2019).
Advocating causal analyses of media and social change by way of
social mechanisms. Journal of African Media Studies, 11(2), 143–
161. https://doi.org/10.1386/jams.11.2.143_1), in consequence
affecting digital/media practices and vice versa.
TidsskriftInformation, Communication & Society
Udgave nummer3
Sider (fra-til)438-454
StatusUdgivet - 2021

Bibliografisk note

Important note from the Publisher regarding the attached version of the article: “This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Information, Communication & Society on [date of publication], available online: http://www.tandfonline.com/10.1080/1369118X.2020.1853791.”


  • Digital divide; domestication of ICTs; research methodology; Kenya

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