The environments we inhabit change rapidly as digital technologies and infrastructures become ubiquitous, with major changes in the ways that states regulate, corporations profit from, and people consume, produce and (re)circulate digital media content. These changes impact the environment in terms of energy demand.
What does the mobile phone and digital infrastructures do for- and to- people in this township environment?
What controversies exist nationally and locally around cost of data, the failing energy grid, and global tech giants arriving in South Africa?
And how do these controversies relate to hopes, fears, and the digital dimensions of everyday life in Manenberg?
Funded by the Independent Research Fund Denmark (1130-00019B), this 3-year research project builds on long-term research in South Africa and internationally award-winning experiments with multimodal anthropology. The DigiSAt research project offers new empirical knowledge bridging some of the most pressing concerns of our time: digital living and energy futures with related impacts on human well-being, democratic society, and the environment.
It looks across scales from the intimate everyday life in the South African township of Manenberg to mapping controversies around global IT giants in the local context, linking this to the failing energy grids needed for the digital infrastructure. Almost 60 per cent of South African households’ access the Internet through using mobile devices (Stats SA 2020) and as the access point to the digital dimensions, the mobile phone collapses the phenomena of data costs, connection, capture – and the electricity costs and energy consumption.