Digital Connectivity in Southeast Asia: approaches and methods

Newton Mobility Grants
Scheme 2016

British Academy &
Office of Higher Education
Commission, Thailand

Centre for Contemporary Social and
Cultural Studies, Faculty of Sociology
and Anthropology, Thammasat University

Media Ethnography Group,
Department of Media and Communications,
Goldsmiths, University of London

6-7 January 2017

4th-floor meeting room, Rattana Pittaya Building
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Khon Kaen University

about the workshop

"Digital Connectivity in Southeast Asia: approaches and methods" is a workshop for postgraduate students and early career researchers brings together anthropologists, media scholars and activists to ask how anthropology can provide theoretical and methodological tools for understanding the processes, technologies and practices by which digital connectivity becomes embedded and meaningful in the lives of populations across Southeast Asia.

Our point of departure for the workshop is the rapid expansion of mobile internet across the region and the prominence given to digital connectivity and its presumed positive economic and social benefits both in policy discourse from inter-governmental agencies such as ASEAN, and in the vision statements of the transnational corporations developing mobile network infrastructure and services. State actors provide a far more qualified support for the ideal of connectivity, reflecting anxiety to control and circumscribe the use of these new communicative capacities. Against this backdrop in which digital connectivity is idealized or feared by powerful actors we ask how connectivity is materially experienced and imagined by differently positioned populations across the region? What contribution can anthropology make to conceptualisng the paradoxes of connectivity on the ground?

The workshop features three keynotes from leading scholars in the field: Professor Heather Horst (RMIT), Dr. Mark Johnson (Goldsmiths), Dr. Tom McDonald (Hong Kong University). In addition, Arthit Suriyawongkul (Foundation or Internet and Civic Culture) will provide an overview of digital media environment in Southeast Asia.

Individual workshop sessions will take the form of facilitated group discussions focused on key readings. The first session provides an overview of anthropological debates on digital culture. Session two explores methodological approaches to researching digital media and society. The final session engages a series of key themes in ethnographies of digital culture and connectivity: migration and mobility, activism and surveillance, and digital tools and concepts of personhood.

The workshop initiates a 12-month partnership between CCSCS, Faculty of Sociology and Anthropology, Thammasat University and the Media Ethnography Group, Goldsmiths, University of London which focuses on developing capacities for researching the mobile internet and the paradoxes of digital connectivity in Southeast Asia. The project is jointly funded by the British Academy (Newton Mobility Grants scheme 2016) and the Thai Office for Higher Education with additional support from the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Khon Kaen University.