Hypermobile learning in an immobilized environment. Digital anthropology of ICT use in four Tanzanian universities

Start - End 
2016 - 2020 (ongoing)



The contradictions of depoliticized (economic) globalization in Africa south of the Sahara are reinforced by current communication technologies. Inadequate ICT skills among students and teachers, traditional philosophy of teaching and learning, lack of technical expertise on digital contents production, lack of relevant e-learning curriculum, and selective investments in ICT infrastructure have led to ‘Hypermobile learning’, a nervous reaction to the global inequality between modes of knowledge production. Africa, more than ever a ‘planetary laboratory’ and the last battle ground for capitalism (Mbembe), has witnessed the globe’s great inversion from differentiated spheres of exchange under one mode of production, life, to the division of production modes in a unified sphere of exchange, the market. In communication, a conflation takes place of public and private. We witness the imbrications of neo-colonial object-subject relations with the fractal of domesticated fertility (the lure of foreign novelty) characterizing ‘forest fringe cultures’ in Africa. The internet and smart phones hailed for facilitating elegant assemblages of work and leisure, of private and public spheres, contribute to blurring the divides that traditionally maintained the integrity of individuals. Dealing with ailing ICT infrastructure in African universities, both lecturers and students are expected to produce coping strategies from their personal mobile devices. Our qualitative research shows both groups to complain about the hypocrisy of the educational system, which bans the wayward smartphone in the formative primary and secondary levels, yet counts on that very tool for students to accomplish their university studies. Available mobile networks are overloaded such that students choose to wait until midnight to access them. The new forms of bricolage between technologies and life/work cycles, ambivalently propagated as m-learning, in fact impede structural interventions, sustained power brokerage and life-time mobility. The ‘human sacrifice’ implied is, we argue, what occupy-sites and recent student protests in (South) Africa decry.




Egbert Desmet

University of Antwerp