Mapping the Flow of Secondhand Computers to Ghana

As posted over at Ethnography Matters:

Sourcemap is a project based out of the MIT Media Lab for documenting and publicizing the global supply chains of manufactured goods. With a slight bit of repurposing, I found it to be a potentially useful presentation tool for multi-sited ethnographies in the mode of “following the object.” Case in point, my source map of the distribution of secondhand computers arriving from the US and Europe to Ghana. This source map doesn’t just document their arrival into Ghana, but also the path they take in country from the port, to the shops where they are sold, the Internet cafes where they are used, and eventually to the scrap metal yards where valuable metals are extracted, and the waste dump where what is left is deposited. Source map allows you to attach text and photos (from Flickr) to points on the map and to the links between. As a presentation tool for multi-sited ethnographies this helps to break away from the linearity of prose, linking images and descriptions and giving a stronger spatial sense of phenomena that is so geographically vast in scope that it is otherwise hard to get a good grasp of its coherence and continuity.

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